Accelerator delivers future skills education

Tuesday, 27 October, 2020

Accelerator delivers future skills education

The Future Minds Accelerator initiative developed by mining giant Rio Tinto brings future skills courses to K-12 students and educators in the Pilbara, Western Cape and Northern Peninsula Area regions of WA.  

During the month of September, eight educational technology start-ups under the Future Minds banner ran free remote classes at schools in all three regions. This is the first year in a new, four-year program funded by a $10 million investment by Rio Tinto in a move to help teach Australia’s young people the skills they’ll need to thrive in the jobs of the future, regardless of their location.

Each start-up selected for the Accelerator was given a $50,000 grant from Rio Tinto, training and mentoring from the expert team of entrepreneurs at BlueChilli, and up to $100,000 in AWS Activate Credits from Amazon.

Led by David Gonski AC, the Future Minds Advisory Council of Australian education, innovation and business leaders has offered founders valuable advice and guidance.

“Now more than ever, equal access to education is important for regional and remote areas of Australia. I am delighted that the start-ups from the Future Minds Accelerator are helping bridge that gap and building these future skills in our young Australians,” Gonski said.

The 14 start-ups in this cohort have developed solutions to help kids learn future skills, including artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics, smart cities, sustainability, online game development, virtual reality (VR), career readiness, entrepreneurship, teamwork, imagination, physical health, mental health and more.

Dan Kelleher, Acting General Manager Rio Tinto Weipa Operations, said teaching these skills to kids in regional Australia will equip them to operate in tomorrow’s world. 

“Our world is ever-changing and it is important, now more than ever, to equip children with the skills they will need for a digital future. We are helping to prepare young people by providing regional communities in the Western Cape access to programs like the Future Minds Accelerator that focus on critical thinking, problem-solving, systems design and data analytics — all skills required to thrive in the careers of tomorrow.”

Classes ran at three schools in the Pilbara — Paraburdoo, Dampier and Baynton West Primary Schools — and seven schools in the Western Cape and Northern Peninsula Area regions — Western Cape College’s Mapoon Primary, Weipa Primary and Weipa Secondary campuses, St Joseph’s Parish School Weipa and Northern Peninsula Area State College’s Injinoo Junior, Bamaga Junior and Bamaga Senior campuses.

Paraburdoo Primary School Teacher Dorinda Truscott said the intention was to get the students engaged, motivated and thinking about their future.

“I really wanted to engage my students and to educate them about what the future might hold for them. It’s really important to motivate them around technology and engineering and teach them that the sky is the limit. By working with a program like Buzzy Games, where kids are problem-solving and using skills like collaboration, teamwork, coding, maths and science, kids will get a better understanding of the skills they will need in the future. My students loved it,” she said. 

Filipa C Araújo, Program Director at start-up consultancy firm BlueChilli, said the reach of the program has been fantastic. 

“We're incredibly proud this group of start-ups has positively impacted more than 30,000 Aussie kids in just four months, and we’ve loved sharing their EdTech solutions with parents, teachers and government in the Pilbara and Weipa regions,” she said. 

As COVID-19 locked down cities around the world, effective online learning became more important than ever. Students weren’t the only audience, with Eddie Blass, CEO of Inventorium, running sessions for teachers on how to design and deliver personalised online education.

3D filmmaker Russell Scott, co-founder of Vortals, showed educators how to construct 3D models, as well as giving them a basic understanding of the maths and physics concepts that help build them. From there, educators were given a number of problem-solving tasks that reveal how the software ‘thinks’.

Once teachers went through their session, they were able to teach their own students how to create in the new digital realities of AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality) on the Vortals platform. This session built students’ digital problem-solving skills, their creativity and their collaborative skills.

Artist and teacher Kelly-Ann Denton, founder of, delved deep into the inner working of the mind and showed teachers how the imagination functions in the brain so they can cultivate creativity — both in themselves and in their students.

With the kids in mind, Buzzy Games helped students collaborated to create, code and play their own games. After creating their games, students tested them with each other and made modifications to improve them, with the session teaching collaboration, game design concepts and introductory JavaScript.

Award-winning children’s science TV presenter Dr Rob of Experimentary combined science and fun in a mini-catapult experiment. Kids built and tested their own mini-catapults and learned about science, forces in physics and even a bit of history.

Scott Millar, the 20-year old CEO and founder of BOP Industries, took kids on the inspirational journey of how he turned his Year 9 school project into a growing business that now takes him around the world to work with leading organisations and innovative educators. Millar showed kids how entrepreneurial skills can empower them to bring their ideas to life and make a difference in their community, at any age, from anywhere.

The team at Champion Life teaches kids how to discover their superpower to improve their own mental and physical health. In their sessions, students follow along as a ‘real-life’ community role model completes a calming and energising brain break called a ‘Body Set’. They also watch a health challenge demonstrated by a different role model, and then film their own version of the activity as a class.

Dr Louise Metcalf, founder of Gheorg, teaches kids how to deal with anxiety. Students practised blowing away their worries using bubbles and learning how to be a ‘Hope Ninja’ in the classroom and at home — especially during lockdown periods — by spotting the good things that happen every day.

Image credit: © Popov

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