We chat to two past-participants of the National Questacon Invention Convention about their experience attending the five-day event in Canberra
Every January a group of 25 high school students from around Australia travel to Questacon – The National Science and Technology Centre in Canberra for the National Invention Convention. The National Invention Convention is a five-day – all expenses paid hands-on innovation workshop, where you can turn your great ideas into reality by designing and building your very own prototype from scratch!
With registrations now open for next year, we thought we’d talk to two ex-participants to answer your FAQs.
Lachlan, 17, VIC
Up-and-coming inventor Lachlan from Wangaratta, Victoria, hit up last year’s National Invention Convention. Since unleashing his ideas at Questacon he’s won a scholarship for a mini course with a start-up, worked with his local TAFE on building a website-controlled door locking system and is currently designing an app which matches students with potential mentors. He’s also the Wangaratta Lions Youth of the Year – and somehow finds time to sleep.
Avryl, 17, NSW
Avryl did such awesome work at the 2017 National Invention Convention, she returned last year as one of three student ambassadors to help others with their prototyping ideas. She’s currently in her final – very busy – year at Cape Byron Steiner School and tends to her DIY vegetable garden in between long days of HSC cramming.
What’s the deal?
Lachlan: “It’s basically a one-week program held in Canberra for 25 students from all over Australia! It’s designed to help students learn about being creative and innovative and how to network.”
What’s the application process like?
Avryl: “I applied through Questacon! There’s a form you fill out and you have to put either an idea for a new invention or something you’ve made in the past. For my year eight project I’d created a rainwater wheel to make electricity so I put that down.”
What were the other participants like?
Avryl: “We all had a variety of interests! Everyone had a love of science and inventing but some were more into computer processing and writing code, while others – like me – were into making physical prototypes. There were kids from rural farms and big cities too! We were a very diverse group.”
Day one, what did you do?
Lachlan: “We came up with an idea to help people and then spent the rest of the week working with professionals to create a prototype.”
Avryl: “Our first activities were about understanding the design process – so taking an idea, protecting it, developing it and eventually turning it into real life product.”
Did you have any help?
Avryl: “We had innovators and entrepreneurs share with us their own experiences of inventing. A stand-out was Mikaela Jade who told us about her app Indigital Storytelling. Every mentor specialised in a different aspect of the design process which helped a lot.”
Lachlan: “We had 23 teachers, mentors and ambassadors – each with different skills and abilities – that were able to help us create our prototype. They let us choose how we wanted to create it, though.”
What’s one awesome thing you learnt?
Lachlan: “I never realised there was a different and more impactful way students could be educated. The way they taught us how to create our prototypes was amazing!”
What happened at the end of the week?
Lachlan: “On the last night we had a showcase and got to show people what we created.”
Avryl: “The gala was awesome; we showed our ideas and got to listen to other speakers too!”
Was there anything particularly cool that went down?
Avryl: “One night we got to hang out at Questacon Night at the Museum-style while it was totally empty. It was so fun!”
How is it different to school STEM classes?
Lachlan: “At school you have one teacher and you have to complete a task the way they say, but at the convention the teachers and mentors let you choose how you want to go about things.”
Do you keep in touch with any of the other participants?
Avryl: “We all still follow each other on social media so we can see what everyone is up to!”
Any advice for other wannabe inventors?
Avryl: “Inventors never come up with completely original ideas, but rather take combinations from other inventions to create something new! Also, apply for the convention; you’ll learn so much.”
Inspired, much? Head here to kick start the application process
Author: Cassie Steel
As Refraction’s digital assistant, Cassie Steel spends her days researching robots and stalking famous scientists on Twitter.