Innovative young minds celebrated in the quest to Solve for Tomorrow

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

When the winners of an Australian STEM competition were announced earlier this year, an innovative service devised by three Melbourne teenagers took out a prize in the 14-18-year-old category.

Samsung Electronics Australia’s Solve for Tomorrow 2023 is a nationwide competition that challenges the next generation of young Australian innovators aged 14-24 to use their STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), creative, critical thinking, collaborative, and communication skills to create solutions that address the issues they are most passionate about.

Plans for a merrier, more sustainable Christmas

The Melbourne-based high school students – brothers Flynn and Mikey and their friend George – came up with the idea for a sustainability-focused logistic network to recycle old Christmas trees into next year’s wrapping paper. This idea, dubbed Sustainabili-tree, awarded them as runner-up prize winners, with the boys receiving $5,000 to help them take the next steps on their journey as innovators and service developers.

“Our family always gets real Christmas trees, and it’s not easy to properly discard them at the end of the holiday. Then we looked up how much rubbish is generated during Christmas and found out that it is 30 per cent higher during the festive season than the rest of the year,” the trio told EducationDaily.

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“After a few late-night chats, we decided that there was a way to help make Christmas less wasteful. We didn’t want to be the guys to place an added burden on Australians – we wanted to create a program that was fun, and sustainable.”

Sustainabili-tree is not a product (just yet). Instead, the boys describe it as a “logistic network specifically dedicated to recycling old Christmas trees into wrapping paper”.

“So, we knew we had to present our case for the idea, and that it had to be complete. As we thought about the program more, elements were added to create the final product like the QR re-ribbon.”

Planting of seed for future business innovation

When EducationDaily asked the prize winners about their career aspirations, they admitted that, at age 14, Mikey’s are still “a little vague”.

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“Sometimes he wants to be an airline pilot, sometimes a pianist, sometimes a fighter pilot, and other times he wants to be an inventor.”

For George, the answer is slightly more focused – “either an animation artist or an engineer”.

“I like the idea of running a business,” says Flynn.

“Something I’m particularly good at is organising and bringing talents together so that we can all work towards a common goal, similar to what I did with the Sustainabili-tree program.”

Flynn says that “it’s my generation that’s going to have to solve the issues we’re just beginning to face”.

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“The older generations are expecting us to solve these problems, and generations to come are also hoping,” he told EducationDaily.

“Our idea is just one solution, and the problem of climate change requires millions of solutions. One of the reasons why the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow competition is so great is it gives young people all over Australia an opportunity to think and create a solution and give us the stage to showcase it.”

Forging a better path for wheelchair users

Sydney-based Amelie Ritchie and Harlen Postill also won a runner-up prize for the 19-to-24-year-old bracket with their Petal Path mobile app that uses community gamification to plot the best route for those who use wheelchairs or mobility aids.

“This is an incredibly honouring experience,” says Petal Path App’s Ms Ritchie and Mr Postill.

“More than 180,000 Australians wheelchair users, including one of our teammates, face increased difficulty when navigating paths and roads in poor condition. We hope our innovation will go a long way in helping those living with a physical disability find the most accessible way of reaching their destination safely. The prize money will go towards developing the app and bringing it to market.”

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But it was an inventive device that helps prevent the overuse of pesticides in agriculture that took out the top honour.

The winning Perth-based Team ORS consisted of Michael Nefiodovas, Conor Bennett, Karam Thethy, Celine Wang, Peter Tanner, Jack Sun, Oliver Cheng, Arthur Caspelherr, Katrina Yan, and Filip Najdovski. Their innovative idea aims to help farmers gather and analyse data on pest populations, to reduce the amount of pesticide used. As the major prize winner, Team ORS won $10,000 to contribute towards progressing their idea. The team’s goal is to aid farmers in making informed pesticide-led decisions and help to balance crop protection and ecological responsibility.

Commenting on the win, Team ORS says “Everyone is very excited, our inspiration stemmed from the deep connection Australian farmers have with their environment and the rising public demand for sustainability. Leveraging our passion and expertise in mathematics, statistics, and machine learning, we saw an opportunity in the precision agriculture space where ecological care aligns with farmers’ economic interests. This recognition will allow us to advance our solution, accelerating its translation into a real farm environment.”

In addition to the prize money, each of the three winning teams have received a Samsung productivity pack that includes a Samsung Z Flip5 5G, 27″ Smart Monitor M5, and Galaxy Buds2 Pro.

To participate in Solve for Tomorrow, young Australians aged 14-24 needed to submit a 500-word proposal outlining the issue facing their community and how they would use STEM to solve it. A panel of judges reviewed the proposals and selected the winners based on a scoring system analysing their STEM application, creativity, feasibility, relevancy, and presentation. Invitations to enter the 2024 will open soon.

From brainstormers to winners

For the first time in the competition that launched in 2021, Samsung also conducted a series of in-person ‘Design Sprints’ in partnership with member-based student advocacy organisation Student Edge, which helped potential Solve for Tomorrow participants brainstorm, shape, and present their ideas.

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Four events were held across Sydney with 60 people in total attending. The Petal Path creators submitted their winning entry off the back of attending one of these sprints.

“At Samsung, we’re committed to providing young people a platform to propel their ideas forward and celebrate STEM knowledge by addressing real-world issues,” says Brett Turnbull, Director of Corporate Marketing at Samsung Electronics Australia, of the motivation to run the annual Solve for Tomorrow competition.

“Our research shows young Australians are a purpose-driven generation, and that’s come through in the entries this year with the diversity of topics participants tackled and the passion behind their ideas.”

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]