Investing in tomorrow’s visionaries: yia! finalists workshop 2023


We’re thrilled to share some highlights from our recent 2023 yia! Finalists’ Workshop, hosted in collaboration with Circularity, bringing students an XLabs learning experience. The workshop was designed to introduce students to the concept of the circular economy, taking them through a rapid design thinking process, grounded in the context of our region’s environmental and transport needs.

From left: Meg Davis Project Manager Priority One, Louise Nash Founder/CEO Circularity, Mia Henderson, Circular Economy Network Activator

The workshop, hosted in the beautiful learning space at the University of Waikato, was the perfect place for facilitating a diverse group of young minds eager to dive into innovation and imagination. The room was buzzing with excitement and nervous tension as 63 of our 86 finalists took their seats alongside others they didn’t know. The participants came together from 9 different schools from across the Western Bay of Plenty, and as we looked around the room, it was a delight to see some familiar faces from last year’s program. These returning participants brought a wealth of experience, enriching the collaborative atmosphere and at the same time, new connections were being forged. Making new friends was cited as one of the best parts of the workshop from students.  

One of the most impressive aspects was the significant number of females in the room, demonstrating the diverse and inclusive nature of yia! This is a promising sign for the future of innovation and technology and for the future of work in our region.  
As the workshop kicked off, Circularity Founder/CEO, Louise Nash, and Economy Network Activator, Mia Henderson, set the stage with an important and powerful whakataukī, “Mā mua ka kite a muri, mā muri ka ora a mua.” – Those who lead give sight to those who follow, those who follow give life to those who lead. What makes this whakaaro (idea) so good is that it redefines that being a follower is a bad thing. The reality is, sometimes we will need to lead, sometimes we will follow, regardless of our position or title.   

With Louise and Mia at the helm participants were led through a series of thought-provoking activities to consider the city’s transportation concerns and directly address pressing issues faced by young people here in Tauranga Moana. This hands-on approach to identifying their personal challenges and finding solutions under a circular economy lens is what sets XLabs workshops apart. It was evident that the students were not just curtly discussing random problems, but were deeply connected to the issues our region faces. 

Under the theme ‘Design Your Fantasy Island,’ participants were asked to create a new Tauranga Moana and develop a future city where they would want to live. This sparked boundless creativity and encouraged them to let their imaginations run free as they prototyped, using a plethora of items including playdough, popsicle sticks, hot glue guns and twisty ties, they transformed ideas into tangible concepts. This challenge supported critical thinking, problem-solving skills, innovation, and design-thinking. It was incredible to see these young minds rise to the occasion and tackle the task head-on.  

Witnessing the determined approach to developing their chosen ideas was inspiring. One team prioritised safety and devised a plan for safety pods to be strategically placed throughout the city. These pods would come fully stocked with supplies for hydration, nutrition, communication with authorities, and even tools for fixing a bicycle flat. They would serve as secure, dry, and warm havens for anyone who found themselves lost or in a precarious situation. 

Another group completely revolutionised the city’s transportation system by introducing a network underground with small elevators that would seamlessly connect to the surface. This transformation would leave the city above ground teeming with lush, green spaces for everyone to relish. The introduction of magnetic energy-powered transport bubbles, linked to a user-friendly app, promised to significantly cut down commute times. Additionally, the implementation of ride-share apps, curated with trusted parents in local neighbourhoods, and the placement of bike vending machines in high-traffic areas like schools, parks, and beaches, aimed to mitigate traffic pollution. 

These concepts left such a strong impression on everyone in attendance that one facilitator offered to invest in one of the ventures. It’s moments like these that serve as a powerful reminder of the boundless potential within our young people. Our yia! finalists demonstrated a remarkable understanding of the circular economy, a testament to their forward-thinking approach. It’s a clear indication that they’re at the forefront of sustainable innovation, driven by their passion to live in a collaborative world. The future indeed looks bright with these young minds leading the charge. 

We’d like to extend a huge thank you to Louise Nash and Mia Henderson from Circularity and to our partners and sponsors who volunteered their time to facilitate. Without you all of your support yia! would not be possible. Robotics Plus, The University of Waikato , Page Macrae Engineering, Beca, Datacom, WOODS, Bluelab, Cucumber, Priority One and The Shine Collective