SAVI (Sensory Assistant for the Visually Impaired) took out the overall award for Best Pitch at RDA Hunter’s 2019 STEM Defence + Innovation Pitch Night held last night in partnership with The Business Centre.
Awarded the win by judges representing Boeing Defence Australia, RAAF and NSW Government, West Wallsend High School students Zahnee Bridge and Jake Muller developed SAVI, a solution to help visually impaired people navigate their environments. SAVI incorporates visual assistance technology into apparel which alerts the wearer to their physical environments and unexpected potential hazards.
Zahnee and Jake were two of 12 Hunter high school students pitching their innovations at the event that was attended by 80 business and industry leaders, participating students and their families at The Business Centre’s Newcastle premises.
Deemed winner for its unique concept, market potential and quality of pitch, SAVI was developed during Zahnee and Jake’s year 9 and 10 iSTEM studies and honed during their year 11 STEM study. Team SAVI won participation in an Ernst & Young hosted pitch night in Sydney where they will present to investors, government and industry leaders.
“I’m so excited to have been part of this program. It was challenging and fun developing SAVI during iSTEM but learning how to turn our prototype into a real product has been really valuable. We’ve learnt skills that will help us throughout our careers and given us confidence to back our ideas,” Team SAVI said.
The Pitch Night was the culmination of RDA Hunter’s STEM Defence + Innovation Program that, following a successful pilot in 2018, this year provided students from four schools – All Saints’ St Mary’s Maitland, Newcastle Grammar School, St Philips Christian College Waratah and West Wallsend High School – with skills to innovate and commercialise their ideas. Presenting everything from exoskeleton suits to automatic pet feeders, participating students included Laura Mackay, Charlie Imig, Mackenzie Roddenby, Alec Campbell, Zahnee Bridge, Jake Muller, Yayra Agbola and Josh Mills, Amber Sunner, Daniel Abrams, Jadon Routley and Charles Fawcett
“The Business Centre has been delighted to work with Hunter students again this year. The new and innovative ideas they come up with continues to impress us,” said The Business Centre’s CEO, Mr Steve Wait.
“The workshop series we facilitate is the same as we deliver to our regular clients, so it gives students access to professional expertise that they’ll be able to use throughout their careers. It’s exciting for us to seed entrepreneurial thinking early and influence the way young people think about solving problems.” Mr Wait continued.
STEM Defence + Innovation is an activity of RDA Hunter’s Department of Defence funded ME Program. It was developed to help advance innovation in the Hunter by giving students skills to transition their prototypes to market.
“We congratulate all the participants of this year’s program for their innovative ideas, their dedication to developing them into prototypes and their pitching skills,” said RDA Hunter’s Director of Regional Development and Executive Officer Mr Trevor John.
“Our STEM Workforce initiatives are focused on providing students with technical and work-readiness skills to succeed in STEM careers and this event has given us a glimpse into the quality of the region’s future workforce.”
“Activities such as STEM Defence + Innovation help build a homegrown Hunter workforce with industry-relevant skills and knowledge. Our close collaborations with the Hunter’s defence industry introduces students to opportunities in the important sector, helps build the local talent pool and contributes to regional growth,” continued Mr John.
Facilitated by The Business Centre, students undertook a three-day commercialisation boot camp, the Business Model Canvas, which addressed Commercialising Good Ideas, Innovation in Practice Goal Setting, Value Propositions & Marketing Creativity, and Business & Project Operations. ‘Pitching’ their concepts to potential investors was a significant component of the program.