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Milana’s on a mission to improve youth mental health

Haileybury student, Milana (Year 9), has won a national technology award with an AI-inspired chatbot designed to improve teenage mental health.

NEWS 18 Mar 2024

Milana won the top prize in the recently announced 2023 Young ICT Explorers competition Year 7 - 8 Division. The event encourages high school students across the country to solve real-world problems using technology.

Milana spent a year developing Purple, a chatbot designed for 12 – 17-year-old Australians that provides adolescents with credible mental health information and analyses user data to link young people to positive experiences that can lift their mental health. Purple also uses new technology to create Violet, a virtual friend that users can talk to through their microphone or camera.

“The inspiration for my project came from a personal interest in creating an AI app to help my generation deal with the challenges being thrown at them,” says Milana.

“Personally, I don’t always find it very comfortable to go to adults or to speak out when I feel pressure, and the anonymity and security of Purple provides other people facing struggles in life with an outlet. They know their data is safe and that nobody on the other side of the screen is judging them”
Milana (Year 9)

Milana began developing Purple at the end of 2022 as part of Haileybury’s Digitech Explorers and StartUp programs. The school has a strong focus on innovation and entrepreneurship and runs a series of programs that encourage students to develop business ideas, harness the latest technology and discover their entrepreneurial flair.

The school has competed in the Young ICT Explorers awards since 2015 and has won back-to-back national titles for the past five years.

“The competition is a fantastic opportunity for students to investigate a variety of technologies, develop their programming and technical skills and help solve real problems. As a result, students feel a huge sense of pride and satisfaction that they’re helping to create a better world by using their knowledge and skills in a meaningful way”
Damien Del Vecchio, Coordinator of Digitech Explorers at Haileybury’s Keysborough campus

“Milana should be incredibly proud of her project that harnesses leading edge AI technology and meets the needs of teenagers who may be struggling with mental health issues.”

Milana is a previous Middle School STEM Captain at Haileybury and is passionate about technology and its potential.

“I’ve been interested in coding since I was 7, working my way through coding challenges for beginners and slowly leaning into other programming languages. I joined Digitech Explorers at Haileybury at the first opportunity in Year 7 and I’ve immersed myself in as many STEM opportunities as possible,” says Milana.

“I’ve always known that I want to be a doctor and developing Purple has only increased my interest in working in the medical field. After Haileybury I plan to study medicine and endocrinology so I can become a specialist one day.”