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January 27, 2014

At Shannon with #YoungITLG

At ShannonPhoto by @topgold in Shannon Airport.

ALONG WITH 15 third level students and three members of our Youth Media Team, I'm in the Shannon Airport departure area watching and listening to young entrepreneurs today as part of the Irish Technology Leadership Group Challenge Competition.

This is an inaugural event that encourages young people to innovate for the world that they see several decades from now. I hope our third level creative multimedia students can capture first hand impressions from the younger students and share concepts about how we will live, learn, shop, play, travel and work in the middle part of the 21st century. I've a view of my own, formed around the venue of Shannon Airport itself.

Thirty years ago, the voice of Shannon Radio gave me comfort as I crossed the Atlantic Ocean in several directions. On the first 50 crossings, I had no Global Positioning System and we relied on navigators to shoot the stars as we maintained our tracks. Today, those GPS displays are on glass in cockpits--something I never thoughts would carve out space in the front of an aircraft.

And all the big map cases I would carry are gone as well, replaced by glass slabs light enough to hold in the palm of your hand. I would never have imagined that scenario. I wonder what a young teen would forecast in the aircraft of the future.

When I was 14 years old, I had my first serious thought about flying for a living. Today, I have logged more than 3000 flying hours in 19 different aircraft, crossing every longitude in the world. The vision of flight in my mind as a young teen involved leather caps, big headsets, grizzled crew members and the smell of jet fuel in the morning. Now, it's more likely to be a view of a clean cockpit, young flight crews, and whisper jet service.

I doubt that any of the 600 students registered to attend today's event will have a global transport idea. I will scan the entries in the Shannon Airport departure area to see. I also doubt many of the participants are connected to the existing start-up culture in the midwest of Ireland because I haven't seen a year-round outreach programme for entrepreneurial Transition Year (TY) students in my work with the Limerick Institute of Technology. In fact, the most creative TY students I've encountered as a third level lecturer remain intimidated by daytime campus activities that revolve around an academic schedule.

The Irish Technology Leadership Group plans to "coach and mentor student groups, bringing their ideas and technology advances to life, creating new solutions for the future". I'm keen to discover how that kind of initiative might interlace to existing programmes we have on campus.

We get some of the most meaningful engagement from second level students when we open our campus to workshops that target the interest, aptitude and abilities of young people who intend to apply for a college place. Last year, our workshops in Android app building, digital photography and digital video production generated huge interest. We ran two oversubscribed sessions of each workshop, suggesting there would be a continuous stream of activity if we connected these hands-on events to a flexible learning programme that involved both students and their parents.

I know that truly innovative ideas often emerge from a combination of ideas. That is an idea validated by work Dell is doing with start-ups. The Dell entrepreneurial vision often mixes young innovators with successful entrepreneurs to watch creative ideas percolate. Another method is to let clever young minds experiment with different settings, trying to break or to reimagine a process. I prefer that "shake and break" method of disruption and chaos.

There will be some chaos in the Shannon Airport venue because of the hundreds of voices under one roof. It will be interesting to see how the well-known judges from RTE's Dragons Den review and acclaim student projects.

But you could leave the judging out of the picture and still get a major result since young people are inherently curious. They will judge each other's work and that peer assessment alone will facilitate the major goal of visualising "ideas that will potentially change the world.”

[Bernie Goldbach is the senior creative multimedia lecturer at the Limerick Institute of Technology.]


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