IF the dreary staircases in train stations and public places in Newcastle and the Hunter were brightly painted and even made music when you trod on them, would people use them more?
Year Six Lambton Public School pupil Annabelle Mahoney thinks so, and she also reckons if her idea was put into practice, the region’s troubling obesity rate would be lowered.
Judges in the Hunter Innovation Festival like her way of thinking and have named the diminutive 11-year-old the winner of the Smart Ideas competition.
Annabelle has won $1000 to prototype her idea plus business advisory sessions at The Business Centre and attendance at business development workshops.
“Annabelle had a simple idea that is relatively easy to implement and has so many benefits … And to top it off, she gave a remarkable and confident pitch; all the judges were impressed with her style,” said festival organiser Christina Gerakiteys.
For her part, Annabelle admits she was more than a little nervous when she stepped into the limelight at Watt Street Commercial to pitch her idea to festival judges.
“I didn’t think I’d win because there were adults and the guy before me had a really good idea,” she says in reference to finalist Christopher Glover, who pitched his idea to transform the former BHP site into an enormous carpark with linking ferries to Queens Wharf.
The two other finalists were Annabelle’s classmate, Alex Gallagher, whose idea was to install a solar panel roof at Lambton Pool to allow it to open year-round, and Isabelle Jones, who mooted a social media management platform.
Annabelle admits she got her idea at the eleventh hour after she saw a photo of a child eating a burger a Newcastle Herald report /story/4518448/obese-toddlers-and-a-system-under-pressure/ on obesity in babies and children in the Hunter.
“I did research and it says each step you take burns .025 calories so then I just needed a way to make people choose stairs,” she said.
Annabelle thinks that decorating stairs – either by simply painting them, putting motivational signs on them, funky lighting and even attaching electronics to allow them to make musical sounds – would make people opt for the stairs.
“If there are piano stairs it’s exciting to step up and see what sounds it makes,” she said.
Alex, who trains in a swim squad at Lambton Pool, said his idea to heat the pool year-round was inspired by his cousin, a talented diver.
“She trains at New Lambton but in winter she has to go to Sydney because she can’t train anywhere in Newcastle,” he said.