Wick High Team Amongst Prize Winners At ICT Youth Challenge
29th June 2008
An ingenious gadget to help clothes shoppers pick the perfect fit has clinched a trip of a lifetime to America for a team of young entrepreneurs from Nairn.
The inventiveness and marketing skills of Nairn Academy students Jennifer Baird, 18, Laura Fairley and Callum Beddie, both 17, saw them emerge victorious in the 2008 ICT Youth Challenge.
The annual contest, now in its sixth year, supported by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), BT Scotland, Microsoft and other sponsors, invites young people to submit ideas for information and communication technology of the future.
This year's competition, hailed by the organisers as the "best yet," attracted entries from 146 teams from all over the Highlands and Islands. Six finalists last week took part in a residential "hothouse" at Fairburn Activity Centre, Ross-shire, fine tuning their ideas with help from experts in fields such as intellectual property rights, prototyping and commercialisation, before presenting their inventions to the judging panel.
Collectively known as ICT Unit, the Nairn trio spent the last school session developing their idea for a mobile phone scanning device called Stitch, which can read the barcodes of clothes to check if they will fit. To accompany it they developed an internet programme to show shoppers what they would look like in an outfit.
They were named winners of the Highlands and Islands Enterprise award for Design and Innovation at a prize-giving ceremony on Friday. Their reward, presented by HIE's Director of Regional Competitiveness Alex Paterson, will be a learning journey to Massachusetts Institute of Technology's world-renowned Media Lab in Boston in September.
John Mackenzie, business transformation manager at HIE, said: "Team members gain so much from the Youth Challenge. It really helps them mix with high powered business people and work closely as a team.
"The experience they gain in research and development, presentation skills and increased confidence is invaluable."
Also bound for America is the Inspired Ideas team from Lochaber, whose idea for an interactive gravestone to provide a more personalised and detailed experience for family members visiting lost ones won them the Microsoft-sponsored award for the project with the best commercial potential. While visiting the company's HQ in Seattle in October, the team will have the opportunity to pitch their idea to Microsoft's Scots-born Vice President Bob McDowell.
Microsoft Scotland's John Edwards said: "Microsoft is delighted to be involved in this activity as the competition directly addresses the key areas of innovation and skills and it's essential to offer support to young people with bright ideas.
"We congratulate Inspired Ideas and look forward to hosting them at our Worldwide Headquarters at Redmond in Seattle as their prize."
Topping the BT Scotland-sponsored category for the idea demonstrating the best use of communications, the Mini-Tek team from Wick won a visit to BT's Futurology Lab in Ispwich. While there they will be able to pitch their idea for a multimedia belt offering a range of innovative features to sports users to make their fitness activities more enjoyable to the "BT Dragons".
Robin Mannings, Research Foresight manager at BT, said: "The Standard of the young people's innovation rises each year and many of their technology and business ideas are as good as those I see coming from our own people. And it is pleasing to hear reports that some contestants from previous years' competitions have gone on to start their own businesses in the Highlands and Islands.
"Technology and business skills together in well motivated young people are a powerful economic force that will underpin the local economy and provide new ICT opportunities for the long-term future."
Other finalists in the competition were The Bonnie Bois and Team Edge, both from Fortrose, and KeITh from Keith Grammar School.
Speaking at the prize-giving ceremony, Alex Paterson told the teams reaching the finals of the competition was an incredible achievement in itself.
He added: "What every part of the world is trying to do doing now is to get young people with ideas and turn them into businesses. You can do that in the Highlands and Islands just as well as you can do it anywhere else.
"Technology, innovation and enterprise are going to grow this fantastic region even further."
The ICT Youth Challenge finalists at Fairburn Activity Centre. Wick, Alan Sinclair (Team mentor), Alan Sinclair, (Son!) Laura Oag, Calum Risbridger, Ali Murray (ICT) and Adam Risbridger.
The main sponsors of the ICT Youth Challenge are Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Microsoft and BT Scotland
The Challenge is also supported by Edesign Scotland, which contributes unique advice on product development and ICASS, funded by the Scottish Government, which offers support for Scotland's investors and innovative companies.