It sounds like a pipe dream, but it might not be for much longer – not if a crafty group of Tasmanian students from Invermay Primary School have their way. 

The Grade 5 and 6 children have designed and prototyped an app named Recycle Dash that effectively turns the act of collecting rubbish into a thrilling game. 

In what STEM leader Kristy Tidey describes as a Pokémon Go-style experience, the app has the potential to help solve our environmental crisis. 

“The way it works is … if they scan a piece of rubbish they find, either the barcode or the logo, it will collect that data. 

“But the instant reward that people get is a little character or avatar … little animated characters that pop up on the screen, so they collect [these] and they get points,” Tidey explains.

Yet her entrepreneurial students have gone one step further. 

“There’s also an incentive, so that people aren’t just scanning their own rubbish and then putting it back on the ground again, if they actually take it to a recycling centre … they will get real points or cash rewards.”

It’s a game-changing idea, and one which caught the attention of a panel of STEM experts and judges as part of the NBN Co’s STEM+X initiative. 

“Because [the children] were presenting it to people in the real world, there was that authentic audience and the powerful message that their voices do matter and there are people that believe in their ideas,” Tidey shares. 

The educator says the technical skills required to build the immersive app extended beyond the curriculum. And yet, it was nothing a good bout of problem solving couldn’t iron out. 

“I suppose it almost turned into its own little enterprise, so I stepped back as a mentor … [it] was really interesting to see some of them step into leadership roles and sort of divvy out; ‘here’s your strength, you’re an artist, why don’t you do some design, and the coding behind the app?’”

The emerging designers are now seeking sponsorship to help launch their creation on the market, and there’s some big, invested dreams at stake. 

“A lot of my students come from adverse backgrounds, so with trauma, inter-generational poverty, and this empowered them to become an agent of change,” Tidey says.

“They were beginning to picture the future that they want for themselves.”