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Inspiring Australia ACT is continuing to develop our networks to increase connections between STEM and entrepreneurship. Back in January, we partnered with Questacon’s National Invention Convention, to introduce 24 young inventors from around Australia to the concept of networking.

The Invention Convention is an opportunity for 14-18 year olds from around the country to really explore STEM and innovation. They run National and regional workshops where students can work with techsperts from Questacon and innovators, inventors and entrepreneurs to turn ideas into reality.

At the National workshop in January, we helped bring entrepreneurs together with the young inventors for a Networking Night at CBRIN. The students had a session before hand on what networking is, why it is important and how the evening would run. When they arrived at CBRIN, they got a guided tour of our program and coworking spaces.

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Then, down to the business at hand! Meeting strangers and telling them about yourself and your project! Most of the kids (14-18 year olds, remember) were very nervous. This can be a difficult thing for adults to engage in, so they did very well in engaging in the exercise. We set up the room so that each student (or sometimes pairs of students) got to meet with real-life, actual entrepreneurs who were running their businesses in Canberra. They got to explain what project they were working on and the entrepreneurs had tokens representing money, other resources (including time, access to space or technology) or referrals that they were able to distribute to the students (they were representative, not real!). The students in return were encouraged to pass on their email details to the entrepreneurs, and some contact was made after the event! A bell rang and everyone moved on to the next entrepreneur.

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Food and (soft) drinks were served, and the students learned the difficult real-world issue of juggling food, a glass of drink and talking, without spillage!

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The evening was a big success, if the reluctance of both the students and entrepreneurs to leave their conversations was any guide! Many of the students indicated that once they got over their initial nerves, they were really interested in hearing and talking to the entrepreneurs to get hints, tips and maybe even some future leads and investments in their ideas! The entrepreneurs reported that they were very impressed with the innovative ideas that these young people had created!

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We will definitely run another networking night at next year’s Invention Convention! Meanwhile, applications are open for both Regional and National workshops in 2016 and 2017, so if you are or know a young person with bright ideas, click HERE!