It was with great excitement and a sprinkling of nerves that teachers, business mentors and students poured into our venue at St Catherine’s Church last Wednesday for our bi-annual Solas Business Community Final. This particular Solas Project event is always a highlight of our year, as schools get the opportunity to showcase the creativity and innovation that is sprouting up in classrooms of inner city Dublin.
The run up to this day, involves months of dreaming and scheming in Solas Project offices as well as in the classrooms and boardrooms of Dublin. Each of our seven schools are paired with a team of enthusiastic and skilled business mentors. For this particular final, our schools reached as far north as St. Paul’s Primary School in Brunswick Street and as far south as the Marist Primary, Crumlin. Over 5 weeks of the Solas Business experience the students, grouped into teams, were paired with business mentors from a range of companies including, Google, Savills, Byrne Wallace, State Street GA, Catapult and Dropbox.
These newly formed ‘companies’ then worked together to bring an idea from its rawest form in the brainstorming session right through to the point where the product or service was ready to be pitched on stage. Our business mentors championed their team from the beginning to end of the process, fostering the growth of self-worth, character and motivation of each student along the way.
Solas Business Community Final always showcases the most imaginative and ground-breaking ideas, so it seemed fitting that our panel of judges also reflected a breadth of interests, background and creativity. Our panel was made up of Fiach MacConghail (CEO of Digital Hub), Sinéad Moriarty (best-selling author), Joe Carthy (Principal of Science, University College Dublin), Eimear Clowry Delaney (Assistant Director or University of Notre Dame), Alice Dawson (Communications Coordinator, Oxfam Ireland) and Eoghan Heaslip (Minister at St. Catherine’s Church).
The judges were in awe as they heard about shopping trolleys that you can fold up and bring with you, school bags that you don’t need to carry or another version of schoolbag which has back massagers inbuilt, footballs that return to you when kicked over the wall and onesies with automated temperature control for the homeless.
After being wowed by the presentations, the judges were sent away to deliberate, while the schools and business mentors passed the time practicing Mexican Waves and walking with fidget spinners on their noses!
As well as an opportunity to showcase the talent of the community, the Community Final also offers the judges an opportunity to pick one winning team and a runner up. After much deliberation under time pressure, the judges awarded the 1st Prize to ‘Clever Bots’ from Miss Simcox’s class in St. Brigid’s Primary School, The Coombe. This team had developed an entire robot world that could converse, offer companionship and even help out with everyday tasks! Their model of a tiny bot, called ‘Jeoff’ teared up when he heard they’d won! As their prize, St. Brigid’s Primary School will receive €400 to spend as a school. We’ve heard that there have been suggestions that the school spends it on a chocolate fountain for the yard or guinea pig for the classroom, but we’re yet to hear the final approved decision!
In second place, ‘Team Care & Kind’ from Ms. Flannery’s class in St James’s Primary School, Basin Lane received a €100 voucher for Easons. This company came up with a product that can change the flavour of any bad tasting medicine or tablet, helping both children and adults take their required medicine.
All in all, the Community Final was yet another spectacular display of the potential that lies with the young people in our community. We walked away feeling inspired and our imaginations re-ignited! Thank you to all our partner schools and businesses for all the time, effort and support to create a platform upon which these young people could shine!