Ethi'Cool' Projects

Challenging Minds & Building Futures

The Year 7 Ethi’Cool’ program fosters the development of a suite of skills that students will require in their future careers. Part of the semester-long Digital Technology subject, Ethi’Cool’ involves students working in small teams to design digital technology solutions that tackle real world ethical problems.  

Teams examine current technologies and pitch a new or reimagined product, Shark Tank-style, to a panel of industry experts. This year’s panel included: Simon Herd (Principal Product Manager at Atlassian and Founder/CEO of ThinkTilt); Katrina Lawrence (Regional Director for Dell Technologies in Queensland); Professor Adam Scott (Director of Cardiac Sciences at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital and Founder/CEO of White Cloud Foundation); and Rachel Williams (Junior Developer Red Planet Software and 2021 St Peters Old Scholar).  

Finding solutions to complex issues

While the topics chosen by the students were wide-ranging, Ethi’Cool’ Program Coordinator and Digital Curriculum Assistant, Peter Hurwood, said each semester, through no intent or planning on the teachers’ part, one or two topics tend to predominate, reflecting current student concerns.  

“This time, I think we saw many presentations dealing with teen mental health, anxiety, and the impact of cyberbullying.” 

In researching and developing their product, students are required to consider risks, sustainability, social practices, equity, privacy, and security. 

Impressed by the students’ keen interest in real world problems, panellist Katrina Lawrence commented on the high standard of their solutions. 

“The teams went outside of their comfort zones to research compatible digital solutions to address their problem statement,” she said. 

“[They] weighed up the benefit of technology through apps, wearable tech, drones...but also carefully considered the dependency on data storage and privacy, resilience of their product through creative design and ease of use.” 

Panellist Rachel Williams participated in the very first Ethi’Cool’ project back in 2016. She felt that this year’s Ethi’Cool’ presentations ‘raised the bar’ on previous years, with some teams producing physical prototypes and thoughtfully designed apps. 

One example is Know Me, a mental health support app designed to help teachers better connect with their students and understand how they are feeling. Created by Ruby F and her team (Alex H, Aidan L, Ryan W and Tharushi M), the app enables students to track how they are feeling throughout the day via the use of emojis. A sad or angry emoji might prompt their teacher to check in with them and offer support. In addition to the mood tracker, Know Me would also have a diary and goal setting function.  

Ruby said the app could help students feel more comfortable communicating with their teachers and help teachers know why they might be behaving in a certain way. 

Another app, Sunsolver addresses the health issue of skin cancer. Lachie F and his team (Ellie F, Kay S and Archie P) chose this topic as it affects many Australians. The app’s main feature is a UV filter which allows the user to see if they’ve missed a spot with their sunscreen. It also calculates when you need to re-apply, based on your sunscreen’s SPF and the UV index for your current location. 

Equipping our students with skills for future careers

Rachel Williams, who is currently studying a Bachelor of Business Management and Information Technology at QUT, feels that projects like Ethi’Cool’ transfer well to a real-world application of IT.  

“A lot of people get stuck on the idea that careers in technology are all about just coding in front of a computer for eight hours a day. This project makes you think about all the other roles that go into an IT project, including project management, website design, hardware building, prototyping – all of which are things you can do with an IT degree!” 

In addition to broadening their understanding of digital technology, Ethi’Cool’ also helps students to hone their collaboration, presentation, and public speaking skills. Katrina Lawrence observed that many students were ‘extremely well prepared’ and not only presented knowledgeable and well-rehearsed pitches but responded confidently to questions from the panel. 

“I would like to particularly call out the students who pushed ahead with their presentation even though they were missing one or more team members to illness,” she said. “I was really impressed with [their] resilience.” 

Katrina believes the Ethi’Cool’ program gives students exposure to highly relevant practical experience in the digital technology space and allows them to understand that there is so much more to the industry than they might realise. 

“Technology skills are the future of our workforce and programs such as Ethi’Cool’, capturing the curiosity of our young teens, allows me to confidently believe that our future us in good hands with our technology leaders of tomorrow,” she said. 

The students also enjoy the project, which is a bonus! “I really liked the idea of making our own thing to solve an ethical issue, because that’s normally what adults would be working on,” said Lachie. 

“It was pretty fun working on it, and I learned a lot.”