Communicating COVID updates to adolescents – a novel idea for a novel virus

Today is the United Nations International Day of Women and Girls in Science and the theme is ‘Women Scientists at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19’.

We are thrilled to announce that five Year 11 students from Santa Sabina College have come up with a prize-winning solution to better communicate COVID-19 health messages to adolescents and young adults.

‘Mona Talks Corona’ has won Sydney University’s international BIOTech Futures Challenge.

Responding to the topic ‘Communicating Health’, the students designed a readily updatable chatbot to provide instantaneous answers to questions surrounding COVID-19.

After researching COVID-19 restrictions, Joanna Benedict, Sonya Jayatillake, Victoria Kim, Loredana Leonard and Sophia Witting decided to assist their own demographic of adolescents and young adults in relation to communicating health messages during the pandemic.

‘Teenagers, like us, are unsure of changing restrictions. We wanted to create a solution to clear confusion about the latest information and constantly changing regulations’, they said.

‘We have done this by designing an automated ChatBot system to be available on social media, tailored to the queries of adolescents during COVID-19.’

‘Mona Talks Corona’, was the end result of many hours work by the students who began preparing in Term 4 2020. The final rounds took place on 8 and 9 February and the students were ecstatic with their progress through to the final.

‘It seemed that the school-holiday meetups and pizza lunches together each week were all worth it in the end’, they said.

The Challenge which aims to encourage innovation and creative problem solving was opened by Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC QC, Governor of New South Wales.