VISTA Journey

/Alaina Pitt

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Week One:

This week was all about getting know each other: teams, their mentors and their goals. It was a great opportunity to watch pitches from other VIVISTOP’s and foster the idea of Global interconnection with rangatahi from all over the world. Each idea was unique and fuelled by a genuine desire from the VIVINAUT’s to see their future community thrive. We were lucky enough to have the first VISTA session held at Creative HQ which is a thriving ecosystem of entrepreneurs and change makers. The kids got a glimpse of the existing support for ideating revolutionary ideas which encouraged them to ask questions and get excited.

We began our Saturday bright and early with the eager teams ready to get to work. The insightful Stéphan engaged our kids for majority of the day with his knowledge of future technologies and understanding how each of the ideas fit with the work already being done to better our world. We spent time learning about momentous plans for thriving communities, repurposing waste, revolutionising technology, all in an effort to enable the kids to pick apart their own ideas and identify the most important aspects worthy of dedication for this 6 week block.

By the end, the participants had begun highlighting features of their once broad idea that were the most in line with the passion which drove them to the topic in the first place. To ensure energy didn’t wane too heavily for what was an extensive day, we threw in a marshmallow challenge to promote collaborative team building and gluttonous snacking. After which we headed out into the sunshine to revitalise minds, bodies and souls before jumping back into presentations regarding the importance of research, review and prototyping.

Although I recall heavy sighs as a sign of energy fluctuations and hands clasping brains screaming of information overload, each and every kid was buzzing to get back into the space to grow their ideas. This is only week one and already the drive of this programme is the spirit of our gifted rangatahi on their journey to change the world.

Week Two:

We took a trip out to Eight360, a warehouse based in Lower Hutt, where an excellent team develops simulation pods, largely for the purpose of military airforce training. Although our youngsters weren’t quite old enough to ride the ride, they delighted in the watching VIVITA crew jump in a high-tech hamster ball, strapped in and fitted with a VR headset, being jerked around in an effort to fly a plane in a simulated landscape. The purpose of this visit was to teach the kids the importance of prototyping. Although the latest design looked slick and robust, it was vital to understand how many iterations it went through to find small details in need of amendment. We moseyed through the workshop, recognising tools we have in our own studio, reminding members of the possibilities within our walls.

In contrast with the previous week, this Saturday Morning was accompanied by heavy clouds of thunder and rain. We remedied this situation by handing out some epic swag thanks to Brazen Clothing which unified our team of change makers like never before.

The theme of prototyping continued on day two of this week. Our industrial design engineer, L-J, led an activity where kids prototyped a product that would assist the crew in monitoring the daily capacity in VIVISTOP.

We moved through stations of:

  • Sketching: Moving the images from our brain to paper to initiate the stages of iterating.
  • Storyboarding: moving through the phases of a user experience to understand what works and what doesn’t.
  • Wire-framing (digital): creating a visual reference of what your product would look like in action.
  • Prototyping (physical): Using the tools in our space (cardboard, tape etc) to build a first edition of your idea:

Was also began a more in depth look at our personas. It was important to understand those who may use our product and why it was a necessary addition to their lives. The VISTA experience is exposing our talented kids to realities of entrepreneurship and the essential considerations when cooking up something awesome for a brighter future.

After a long day of big brain activities, the kids were thrilled by the fulfilled promise of ICE-CREAM.

Week Three:

We spent our Friday afternoon at Victoria University of Wellington listening to the visionary co-founder of ‘TasmanION’, Dr Shalini Divya. Her company is in the ongoing process of research and testing of materials to create aluminium based batteries in place of the less eco-friendly lithium-ion batteries. She gave us an awesome presentation all about her journey through the business world while carrying a product that she truly cares about. It was a great way to lead our kids into the weeks focus of pitching and presenting. Although much of the science was lost on our cohort and crew, we were all engaged with the ethos and journey of this project as well as the sustainable driving force behind her work.

As the year draws to a close, each Saturday brings more tired eyes and sleepy brains. Crunch time was upon us, so kids were working closely with their mentors to hammer out details pertaining to their final prototype. Various crew members gave presentations surrounding public speaking do’s and do not’s. Luke drew inspiration from his mum, a renowned public speaking coach to talk about body language, presence and charisma. Laura assembled a seamless powerpoint, utilising her design and educational skills, all about giving and receiving feedback. And Alaina used her knowledge of film techniques to convey the tools needed for the best pitching performance.

It was a restless start to the morning. The young entrepreneurs had stocked their brain with new and exciting tools to make the dream a reality, and it was time to apply them to their new and improved pitch. We supplied them with a useful formula to hit each point with pizazz and boy did they! Although nerves were present, each team prepared a hard hitting presentation that outlined their problem, solution and plan of attack.

These updated pitches will be sent to various teams participating in the Global Accelerator in an aptly named ‘Pitch Roulette’. We’re half way through! And we’ve experienced such insight into the minds of our young entrepreneurs who we encourage to change the world one iteration at a time.

Week Four:

As a reminder of the ‘Global’ aspect of this ‘Global Accelerator’, we circulated recipes to our fellow VIVISTOP’s that represented some local cuisine. We sent a classic Anzac Biscuit recipe to Lithuania and received ‘Saba con yelo’ from the Phillipines. The experience began with a fun oopsie when what was an intended 2kg order of cooking bananas turned into 20kg. Needless to say, our freezer is overflowing with little bananas with a ‘taste remnant of Kumara’, in some of our crew’s opinion. Nevertheless, we caramelised the banana’s, added tapioca pearls, shaved ice (rather beaten as we lacked appropriate machinery), and condensed milk. Certainly a flavour combination untried by many, but quite a success amongst majority of the tasting party.

While these preparations were being made, teams dispersed with their mentors to fill in the blank spaces of their progress board and got themselves orientated with what they knew, what they had learned, and where all of this information was leading them. It was time to change the tone from care-free, sit and listen learning, to applying their new found skills.

Continuing the theme of staying internationally connected, we began the ‘pitch roulette’. Everyone watched pitches from around the world and teams were paired up to give and receive feedback as they had learned to do the week prior. It was great to see the different ideas and trajectory of other teams all working under the same brief, with diverse ideas about what the society of 2035 might benefit from.

Once that was finished, we moved into learning about branding. What does good branding consist of? How can we represent the purpose of our product through font, colour and graphics? We brainstormed these questions by finding the 3 core values of our product. From there, we created mood boards that represented these values and picked apart the final product to source the most accurate images for our brand. We were left with a cumulative mood board that we tested the effectiveness of by asking our peers what values they saw in the design. For the most part, this was a successful exercise, validating the kids understanding of their own brand and giving them tips on how to better communicate the less clear aspects.

We had a handful of guests come in that were doing amazing mahi in the community to help support and inpsire a few of the teams. Team Equity took a trip to The Secret Secret Club, a co-working Queer community space, all about safety and empowerment. Team Eco-Earth-Wise was visited by Laura Nixon, founder of ‘Solid Oral Care’, an environmentally conscious company all about reducing plastic waste in the manufacturing of packaging for oral products. And Gregor Fountain, an ex-principal with a passion for accessibility and equity of education who offered Team 195 some insight as to what lower SES communities might benefit from.

As we get closer to the highly anticipated ‘Demo Day’, the kids are sensing the need to put in time beyond the allocated Vista hours to bring about a presentation that reflects the passion behind their ideas. With the research to validate their product, a visual template for designing purposes and a team of supportive mentors, friends and family, we are gearing up for what we predict will be a fantastic display of the ingenuity present in our talented cohort of innovative rangatahi.

Week Five

We were lucky enough to head to FTN Motion for a look at the importance of patience and prototypes when it comes to high end manufacturing. FTN Motion has a range of electric motorbikes with a timeless, vintage design meant for style and durability in an appealing, eco-forward package. A few of our budding entrepreneurs swear they have secured a future model of the bike when they are old enough to drive one, but we bet the makers have a different story.

Saturday was spent at The Atom – Te Kahu o Te Ao innovation space. This hub is dedicated to fostering an environment of forward thinking Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University students so it was fitting that our future change-makers used this space as a training ground for their final pitch. Although they would have another opportunity to present at Demo Day, this would be the pitch being sent to the other participating VIVISTOPs for their own Demo Day.

We had the insightful Lambrini Usoali’i-Phillips from The Young Enterprise Scheme chat to the kids about the importance of entrepreneurial thinking for the sake of our economy. Some big conversations were taken on! The audience was blown away by the pitches, accompanying pitch decks and the general charisma of the performances, however fabricated. For those who had not seen a glimpse of the other teams, everyone was inspired and assured at the end of the day by the high standard of material.

Week six – DEMO DAY

The long awaited Demo Day was upon us and the entire event was left in the capable hands of VIVINAUTS who were ready to try their hand at event management. We had hype entertainment come in to set up some awesome lighting to set the mood, a stage and microphone for optimal pitch acoustics, and a YouTube live for all viewers who couldn’t make it to the event.

There was a (strictly mocktail) bar set up with various drinks available, some scrumptious catering and activities to entertain our broad demographic of attendees. T-shirt making, cookie decorating and. chocolate molding were all available options.

When the pitches finally began, we took some time to watch and listen to examples from other countries and sincere applause was heard for each and every one of them. Our kids clutched their cue cards, desperately remembering the buzz words and taglines that would surely secure them an impressed nod from a stranger in the audience.

We were led through the event by some (rather comical) MC’s who introduced each VIVINAUT. All pitches were astounding and we are so proud of the courage deployed for optimal impact. The pitching concluded and suddenly the accelerator had come to an end. Mentors and crew released tension from their shoulders as a reminder of what VIVITA means washed over us: We are here to guide and inspire rangatahi who have existing capabilities to change the world however they see fit. These VIVINAUTS simply fulfilled the potential we had seen in them from the beginning, and learned to wield their power as a weapon for good, quite magnificently, if I might add.

The afternoon wrapped up with some memorable musical performances where audience members asked the oh-so-common question of: How old are these kids?! And were shocked when we said they were 9 with the talents of a seasoned professional. We nibbled the last of the sausage rolls and sliced some creamy camembert (one of 3 giant wheels) and families began to make their way home.

VISTA Global Accelerator 2022 has come to and end and only good things have been heard from the kids and mentors. We will politely ignore the groans of a long Saturday and the use of ice-cream as motivation… However, we do believe there is a cohort of future entrepreneurs brewing from this exciting program so watch the papers for when they take over the world.