Marisol Bite is a Teacher at John Paul College Rotorua and took the time to talk us through how she introduced the Tahi Rua Toru Tech Challenge to her students, their journey through developing their idea, and how they went on to win the 2018 Bronze level (now Secondary) at the National finals.
After initially singing up, receiving and reviewing the resources, Bite said she found the resources “straightforward and easy to follow” and decided to trial them with her junior class, finding that the resources were parallel to what she was already teaching, which “made the planning and delivery of the lessons very easy.”
Bite’s student team ‘Vibranium’ created a role-playing survival game set in a 3D environment to promote mental health awareness to students their age, a heavy topic that has had unfortunate prominence with youth in New Zealand - something John Paul College were all too familiar with, “We had to deal with a number of deaths in our school due to health conditions and suicide. One of our teachers had a heart attack in class and two members of our staff lost their husbands, but the one that had the most impact on our students last year was when a Year 9 student took their own life.”
As the Vibranium group were brainstorming the group were “very vocal about this issue because they were able to draw out from their own experiences, such as family members who had to go through a very rough situation.” This very real-world understanding and drive to help combat this issue lead the group to develop a platform to “look after our own mental health, and how to overcome grief and sadness.”
Bite explained that the most exciting part as a teacher during the challenge was to watch how the students gathered feedback from peers, teachers and family members to refine their product. Bite noted that the student’s topic was a community issue, and the team quickly realized they were the ‘stakeholders’ and their input was important, “It is very exciting to watch the students go through the development cycle of their digital outcome, we enjoyed exploring the problems and issues of our context.”
But the road to creating a winning project isn’t an easy one, as the team soon had to face the very real limitations and obstacles that came with developing a 3D game. The team had decided to use the program Unity to develop their game – a programme that the team, Bite, and even their allocated mentor had little experience with, “the students spent most of their lunchtimes researching and finding tutorials online, this was also a huge learning curve for us because of the platform that we chose for this project, we were not able to complete the entire game but the group has managed to learn a whole lot of skills designing and rendering in 3D format.
The team’s hard work had paid off though, and team Vibranium were soon heading to the National finals in Wellington, having been chosen as a finalist at their regional completion. But the final, and most daunting test for the team, was still to come as they now needed to present their project to a panel of industry professionals, “the group was terrified initially to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges, they find the ‘Dragon’s Den’ format exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. To prepare them for this, I had conducted 2 mock interviews and asked the group to present their ideas to a group of teachers. This has helped then prepare and face the judges confidently.”
The practice and weeks of hard work paid off, and the team came out as the 2018 national winners of the Bronze (Secondary) level, taking home $1500 for the team and $3000 for their school. Despite the cash price, Bit said that the girls favorite part was travelling to the capital and having the opportunity to visit the TradeMe headquarters, “They were amazed to see how dynamic the environment of Trade Me is where the rooms and offices are designed to enhance collaboration and creativity. After this trip, all the members of my group are now considering doing an IT related course at university.”
Bite said that she would highly recommend teachers to consider signing up to the competition, claiming that “the competition has shown me that a project-based approach to learning is not that tedious if you follow the resources provided by 123 Tech. I enjoyed doing this with my group, we were able to explore the topic of mental health in a non-threatening way and learn from each other through the process.”