The Sunday Times - - News - JOSH ZIM­MER­MAN

SMART­PHONES in schools some­times cop crit­i­cism for en­abling bul­ly­ing, but four young West Aussies are turn­ing that per­cep­tion on its head with an award-win­ning app that pro­motes in­clu­sion.

The brain­child of Sa­cred Heart Col­lege stu­dents Alexan­dra Groves, 14, Jack Ben­nett, 15, An­thony Bulich, 14, and Tyler Williams, 14, Pas­sion Your Pur­pose con­nects kids with other stu­dents who share the same in­ter­ests and hob­bies.

On sign-up, stu­dents com­plete a quiz and are pre­sented with a list of rec­om­mended groups based on their tastes — from chess to soc­cer to jazz mu­sic.

Stu­dent lead­ers, se­lected by each school, then reach out to any child who in­di­cates an in­ter­est in their as­signed group. The goal is to con­nect peers through their pas­sions, along the way com­bat­ing the lone­li­ness and iso­la­tion that of­ten leads to de­pres­sion, anx­i­ety and in ex­treme cases, sui­cide.

The idea for the app was born dur­ing an 18-week school project that re­quired the Year 9 stu­dents to iden­tify a prob­lem that could be solved by a tech-en­abled start-up.

“De­pres­sion and so­cial anx­i­ety is some­thing that could af­fect all of us and we fig­ured what may cause that is a lack of peo­ple to be with, a lack of pur­pose,” Tyler said.

“The app lets kids join groups where they feel they be­long, our hope is to drive a sense of be­long­ing for mem­bers.”

Although still in de­sign phase, Pas­sion Your Pur­pose was crowned the win­ner of the In­no­va­tion Awards in Mel­bourne last week. The stu­dents also won $10,000 worth of dig­i­tal ser­vices through the ju­nior cat­e­gory of Pitch­fest, which will be put to­wards the app de­vel­op­ment.

They are now wait­ing for a Com­mon­wealth grant ap­pli­ca­tion that would al­low them to travel to China and pitch their idea to in­vestors at the Asia Pa­cific ICT Al­liance Awards in Oc­to­ber.

“We want to have the ac­tual app built by pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ers and ready to roll out to early adopt­ing schools by the mid­dle of next year,” Tyler said.

Tech pas­sion: An­thony Bulich, Jack Ben­nett, Tyler Williams, and Alexan­dra Groves are ready to go to China. Pic­ture: Justin Ben­son-Cooper

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