THE Hunter has the potential to produce the world's next Bill Gates, thanks to a new program stoking innovative students' interest in science, technology, engineering and maths.
The inaugural Digital Sparks Regional Technology Design Challenge and Expo was held at the University of Newcastle on Tuesday, when more than 150 students from years 3 to 8 displayed their smartphone apps, websites, computer codes and robotics.
Event organiser and The Junction Public School principal Wendy Cheek said the students from eight schools had used the STEM subjects to design and create solutions to real world problems.
"This is giving these kids a platform to participate in these subjects and putting endless possibilities before them," Ms Cheek said.
"We could have the next Bill Gates in this room. We're telling them 'You can be and do whatever you want'."
The Junction Public technology teacher Rob McTaggart said it also helped students see how an understanding of STEM subjects could help them turn their ideas into a reality.
"It's 50/50 boys and girls here and we're hoping that if we can get girls interested now, there's much more chance they'll stick with it through high school," he said.
New Lambton South Public students Jonathan Allen, Montarnna Nash and Oscar Cox created a program called Happy Days to support people suffering depression.
Participants hold a line to earth in one hand and use the other hand to tap metal conductors attached to instruments.
This makes animals on an attached computer screen move, produces calming sounds and asks participants to think of what makes them happy.