Students problem solving skills on show at Youth Hackathon

Published on 29 February 2024

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Sixty students from five high schools across the region put their problem solving skills to the test at MidCoast Council’s Youth Hackathon for Sustainability on Thursday 22 February.

The unique event invited students to work together in teams to develop solutions to one of three sustainability-related challenges facing the MidCoast.

Council’s General Manager, Adrian Panuccio, said the competitive and fast-paced nature of the event helped push the students beyond their comfort zones and forced them to think holistically about the solutions they were coming up with.

“What works so well about these events is that they put our youth in the driver’s seat and challenge them to solve real problems that directly impact the area they live in,” said Mr Panuccio.

“How do we help residents reduce the amount of water they use outdoors? How do we minimise contamination in our Food Organics Garden Organics (FOGO) bins when they’re introduced? How do we reduce the amount of sediment and nutrients entering our waterways?

“These are complex issues, but as expected, the students responded to them with passion and ingenuity and some of the solutions they came up with were really clever and well thought out.”

After developing their solutions, the teams pitched them to a judging panel that included Director of Liveable Communities, Paul De Szell; Executive Manager of Water and Systems, Marnie Coates; Waste Manager, Dave Rees; Youth Community Development Officer, Juno Jacobs; and Taree Aboriginal elder, Uncle Will Paulson.

Prizes were awarded across three categories, with a team from Great Lakes College Forster Campus taking out Most Innovative Solution, a team from Taree High School winning Most Practical Solution, and a team from Chatham High School being awarded Judges’ Choice.

Mr Panuccio said while the event provided a great opportunity to engage with local youth about local issues, it was more than just an exercise.

“Our staff will take the solutions the students came up with away and look at them closely to see how they might be of value. It could be that some of them can be implemented directly or some of them can help form part of a larger initiative, but they’re all up for consideration and we’re grateful to the students for sharing their ideas,” he said.

“One thing we heard on the day is that sustainability really matters to these kids and that’s a sentiment we take to heart.”

The Youth Hackathon for Sustainability is the second such event MidCoast Council has held, following the success of the inaugural Youth Hackathon for Water in 2022.

Council will look to host similar events in the future.