Reducing plastic, one step at a time

It started with her lunchbox. Then the plastic bags at the shops. Now I see everything that she sees – covered in a silent poison which surrounds our lives.

Let me take you back to the beginning of her story. seven years ago, my older sister, Eve, came to my mum and said

“Mum, why do you wrap our sandwiches in plastic wrap? Why don’t you put it in a container?”

My mum considered this and said

“I guess it is just what I am used to; I used to have my sandwiches in paper bags but the plastic wrap keeps them fresher.”

My sister responded with

“Mum, I don’t like throwing out my plastic wrap, so can you please use containers?”.

This wasn’t too much of a hassle, it did involve a little extra dishwasher space but nevertheless, my mum agreed: “OK, sure!” That was the first (and minor) step to reducing the plastic in our lives.

A few months later, my sister had a similar conversation with my mum about the little portioned sized snacks which were individually packaged with plastic. She asked

“Could you please buy our snacks in bulk and pack them in reusable plastic containers?”

In this case my sister Eve was referring to the little yogurt tubs my mum had previously bought instead of buying the little individual containers, there would be less waste to buy a 2kg tub and manually separate the yogurt into containers. Of course mum saw more containers to wash each day, leaving her less time in her day, but reluctantly mum bowed under the weight of Eve’s environmental concerns. Throughout the years Eve became stricter and stricter with the amount of plastic (and in general all unnecessary garbage) that our family produced.

I remember two years ago when my sister asked mum to reduce another form of regular plastic waste, the many plastic bags for groceries. Eve pressured mum to use fabric bags when grocery shopping. These days, thanks to Woolworths new plastic bag ban, it doesn’t seem like a big deal today, but two years ago it was not a particularly common thing to do.

From mum’s reaction, this was by far the most difficult of Eve’s requests. My sister is one of the most patient and kind people I know, but if mum forgot to bring her fabric bags, mum was then subject to a lecture of the terrible things that plastic did to the environment. Not only did mum have to remember to bring the bags, but remember to bring enough of them. If mum only brought 5 fabric bags and had to use 2 plastic bags, Eve would protest and

refuse to eat the food out of those two bags. My sister’s frustrating habits were well-meaning but also an inconvenience to our family (well, mostly mum), but over time our habits have changed.

We can now see that the steps Eve forced us to take were our way to help the environment, to reduce our plastic intake and to help us all see the world in a new light. It is clear that the steps that we have taken are not complete, our family continues to improve, now with everyone onboard. Our family still needs to reduce the amount of plastic in our lives and the amount of waste we create, whether that be the grocery products we buy or “fast fashion” trends we sometimes follow.

People who don’t actively take part in the movement of trying to reduce the plastic they use should be educated to understand the extent of our plastic problem. It is known that plastic will never fully decompose and will take 1000 years to reach its smallest

possible form. Plastic that has been slowly decomposing in the ocean is eaten by the sea life that lives there. The seafood that we eat today has tiny bits of plastic that the fish have consumed because we have allowed it to infiltrate the food chain.

After living with my sister’s environmental passion, let me tell you my story. For as long as I can remember, I have loved to bake. I love everything about it (except the cleaning up part). Now I have always known that there are downsides to the delicious treats I make – “I minute on your lips; a lifetime on your hips”. But what I never considered is the lifetime of plastic I have created, so taking the information my sister taught me, I began to notice my environmental footprint. Becoming aware of products that were wrapped in plastic, such as sugar: packed in a plastic bag, vanilla: packed in a plastic bottle (and if that wasn’t enough, a plastic seal and a plastic wrap that encased the seal), chocolate: packaged in plastic. I have started storing foods in sealed containers instead of zip lock bags and keeping my food in containers instead of wrapping them in single use plastics. Of course I am not perfect. I have not found solutions to all of the sources of waste that are associated to my cooking and generally living a teenage life, but I have been reducing my plastic use one step at a time, every day, every week.

We know that plastic is a problem. It has remained the most common category of rubbish that is picked up on the annual Clean Up Australia day for the last 20 years. The trouble with our society is that even buying a reusable container to be environmentally friendly takes you a step back because it itself is wrapped in plastic! There are countless difficulties that occur when trying to reduce the waste you create; take-out at restaurants, groceries and even fresh produce are often wrapped in plastic. Recently I noticed that recycled toilet paper is also packaged in plastic too!

My sister Eve, Mum and I

Looking back I can see that the changes Eve forced us to make were for the better.  Reducing plastic has been both positive and rewarding. So, the question is: what do you have to lose by also embarking on a journey to reduce your waste?

Love, Ruby

Microsoft Build 2018 – An overview by a 14 year old

I have just come back from a very exciting trip overseas to Seattle, USA where I attended Microsoft Build 2018 conference. Last week I blogged about meeting Satya, again. Since then, Satya even tweeted our meeting!

I am back at school in Australia now and I have been telling my friends my highlights from the conference. Let me tell you about the coolest things I learnt at Build (well, cool for a 14-year-old)!

My top 8 from the Build conference:

1. Microsoft Launcher: I already use iMessage for my computer and now PC users will have a better version of that, they no longer need to pull their phone out of their pocket for a text or alert because it will now pop-up on their computer (and it is available for iPhone and Android!)

‘None of us here can live without phones, so neither should your PC’
– Shilipa Ranganathan

2. Bing seamless 3D maps: I really loved the demo where the 3D maps were overlaid on a diagram of an office. I don’t use Bing often but when I saw this demo I was super impressed! (See the 3 images below)

Figure: (1 of 3) The original 3D blueprint

Figure: (2 of 3) Using Bing Maps to turn the blueprint in a 3D map

Figure: (3 of 3) Using the Microsoft HoloLens to interact with the blueprint and find the problem


3. Notepad improvements: You use Notepad more than you think so it is good to see little fixes finally being done. I think everyone in the audience thought this one was quite funny and surprising because there was a lot of laughter.

4. Microsoft Word Grammar improvements: Spell check currently uses the dictionary and thesaurus uses grammar rules, but new words and the way people write can be different, this new feature uses machine learning to power grammar checks.

5. Revenue increase in the Microsoft Store: Developers of apps now receive 85% of revenue (vs Apple’s 70%) – Basically app developers are getting more money.

6. Adaptive Cards: Inside Outlook, Skype and Microsoft Teams you will find a new embedded feature which is similar to a form to fill in rather than clicking a link and leaving the app. It is designed to avoid disrupting the flow – currently there are forms for GitHub, calendar and Dynamics payments so far.

This was the best video I found for the keynotes: “The Microsoft Build Keynote in 15 minutes”


The sessions were great. The 2 most memorable sessions I attended:

7. An introduction to Blockchain with Mark Russinovich.

Everything about this session was complicated, (even his name!) but it was interesting. I look forward to the day I understand every word Mark says! Not understanding the session was the weirdest feeling: understanding the words he was saying having so little idea what on earth they all meant. I can imagine it’s a bit like if you read the texts between me and my friends, despite understanding the language you would probably fail to understand what we are saying because we use a lot of shorthand language.

What I understood from the session was that online currencies (such as bitcoin) using blockchain are not as secure for payments as I thought. Let me try to explain: when a record in a ledger is created, a ‘ladder’ is also created. The longest ladder continues and the others are ‘forgotten about’.

The problem with this is that the short ladder with the payment, may be forgotten but the goods may have already been exchanged. Mark’s recommendation: wait at least 60 minutes for the payment before exchanging goods, obviously this risk is acceptable for a $3 coffee but for a massive payment it is definitely a good idea to wait!

8. Amplify your Awesome.

This was the last session I attended and I feel like this is a nice way to end the blog. The talk had 7 speakers who each had a timed 5-minute presentation and 15 seconds per slide. It felt like the speakers had really practised because time constraints on a presentation make it a lot harder even though it is shorter. I was on the receiving end of their talk and, to say the least, it lived up to its title. Every talk was awesome, the time constraints meant the speakers narrowed down their content into only the most interesting parts and they were all funny. And it wasn’t all about tech, which was a nice break from the last 3 days!

Until next year,

I asked the CEO of Microsoft Satya Nadella a question, again

I blogged my experience last year at Build 2017 and I asked Satya Nadella a question. It was one of the most amazing experiences and something that I remember and don’t take for granted. I was 13 and it was my first tech conference. This year I got to ask Satya a question for the 2nd time.

Yesterday I had just watched the Microsoft Build Conference keynote.

After the keynote my dad got an email, asking if Satya could have parental permission to meet myself and 2 other kids. I guess I got lucky because I was one of the few under 18 kids at Build. Disa Covaci (10 years), Anna Covaci (12 years) and I all came to meet Satya and have a short conversation.

MS Build, Seattle 2018

There are so many things I could have asked Satya but I ended up following up my question from last year because I was interested in seeing where Microsoft’s path had gone. Last year I asked where, ideally, would the new AI technology that they were demo-ing be used in the perfect world and Satya told me that he hoped it would help people with disabilities.

So 1 year later I asked which disability – such as vision, hearing or paraplegia – that Microsoft’s technology would benefit the most from the new AI services being developed. His answer to my question was: “All of them”.

Satya followed up by telling me it is important for young people, like myself, to be able to pick up a tool, like VS Code or Scratch and develop something useful (I assume coding using all the “smart” services that Microsoft have available). I think he believes the cool AI-powered software is now simple enough for kids to use and develop.

Here is the video of me talking to Satya:

My school in Sydney offers a few courses which teach teenagers the basics of developing in Visual Studio Code. Next year I want to come back to the Build Conference with the ability to read and understand not only HTML and JavaScript but the Azure AI services.

I feel privileged to have met this extremely empathetic CEO and he has now inspired me to look further into these emerging technologies.


My Time at Microsoft Build 2017

As you know from my last blog, I’ve just attended Microsoft Build 2017. My dad has been attending this conference for my whole life and I assumed it was a boring “adult” conference. I was surprised by how much fun this tech conference was!

Most of the conference was just attending sessions and walking around the hub where they had so many awesome new technologies for demos.

On top of that I did an interview for Channel 9 Microsoft (not the real Channel 9 on TV for all my Aussie friends!). I think they were interested to know what a kid was doing at the conference!
Watch Video:

During the day I stayed with my dad and the rest of the RD’s in a “special” room. I got to meet a few Microsoft bigwigs Scott Guthrie, Kevin Gallo, Kevin Scott and as you guys know, Satya Nadella.

Check out these wicked photos! 😉

Kevin Scott – Boss of IT at Microsoft and LinkedIn

Kevin Gallo – Boss of Microsoft Developers

Satya Nadella – Boss of Microsoft (he replaced Bill Gates and Steve Balmer)

Scott Guthrie in the red shirt! He is the boss of Microsoft Azure.

I can tell you guys, this conference is so much fun and definitely not just for old people.


I asked the CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, a question

Yesterday I was lucky enough to ask one of the world’s top CEO’s, Satya Nadella from Microsoft, a question about AI (artificial intelligence). Before I tell you about his answer, let me give you some background.

Today I was at Microsoft Build Conference 2017 in Seattle. This year Microsoft invited 100 students who sat in the front row for the opening keynote. I was the only Australian and also the youngest kid! 🙂 I knew it was Microsoft’s most important conference and as soon as I walked in the room I understood how big the Build conference really is. There were more than 6,000 people there and I have never seen a bigger conference room in my life. There were screens that were literally 50m long!

The first person to come out onstage was Satya Nadella, seeing him in person was the highlight of the keynote for me. After Satya, there were many other speakers too. Scott Guthrie came on stage and spoke about AI, machine learning and security. Some of the machine learning demos were amazing and he also talked about how it could be used for evil, such as people attacking servers and losing privacy. However, the question Microsoft proposed was how can we make technology great for the good of human beings?

Of course, all of the speakers said much that was very complicated and I struggled to understand all of it but I did understand the gist of all the talks. It was all very exciting and there were so many cool examples and so many ideas I thought of:
– Wouldn’t it be great if hospitals could check that the staff washed their hands after using the toilets?
– Wouldn’t it be good if security cameras could spot dangerous things that appeared in places you walk or drive?
– Wouldn’t it be good if I could make a program that watched people in our house entrance and sent a message to my mum if someone forgot to take off their shoes?

After the keynotes, some of the special Microsoft people (they call them RD’s and MVP’s) went into a separate room until 4 pm. I was invited too as my dad was there. In the room, everyone asked questions to Scott Guthrie for an hour or so, and then Satya came in. Satya’s answers were quite long and he took about 7 questions in total – the last question was mine! Everyone laughed when I put my hand up.

I found his keynote at the beginning of the day very interesting and I had a big question that was nagging at the back of my mind. I asked: “In relation to AI products, what is the best possible product you could see?”

Can you see me asking Satya Nadella a question?

His response was very detailed and he talked about his desire for software to solve problems that affect people with disabilities. He said that the issue was very close to his heart.

This reminds me of one of the nicest parts of the keynote. They showed some software built for Emma. Emma is a young woman with Parkinson’s who used to be a designer. She had a tremor in her hand and that stopped her from doing what she loved. A Microsoft team made a device that stopped her shaking so she could design again.

It was a very inspirational video that you will love

Last night I did some research to identify why Satya answered in relation to disabilities and worked out that he has 3 children and 2 of them have a disability.

Thank you to so many people at Microsoft and all of the Regional Director’s who made me feel very welcome this week. During the week I had many RD’s show me around or talk to me, sharing their knowledge and telling me funny stories about themselves and about my dad! It was an amazing experience and I will never forget it. Rocky Lhotka and Dr Neil even let me plait their hair!


Living in the City

I live in a house and I’ve always lived in a house. We live on the coast of Sydney, in a not particularly busy and populated part of Coogee. I’ve often looked at the tall buildings in streets of Sydney and said to myself “I wonder what it would be like to live in a tall building”.

For 3 months our house was in renovations, so my family and I lived in the heart of the City of Sydney next to George Street Cinemas on Kent Street. After being there for 3 months, I now know the city really well! I know all the streets, shops, underground tunnels often linking shopping centres and countless shortcuts – I learnt new things every day.

Living in the city was a totally different experience. Let me tell you why:

Living with less and shopping more.

I knew living in a city apartment would be a lot smaller than living in our house and in the city I shared a room with my sister Eve. Sharing a room with Eve forced me to be more organised, something I brought home.

The family lived with less and we all got used to that quickly. However, I missed lots of little things and that often meant I had to spend more time getting these things from the nearby shops. For example, if I need batteries at home then I just grab a spare one, but in the apartment, I would need to go out and buy them and waste 20 minutes. Because these things took time, we learnt to live in a very minimalistic manner, it made me realise how little we really needed to get by.

There were so many shops down below!

Easy Transport Options but more Exercise

The city apartment was so convenient! Being in the city meant we were about 500m away from everything: grocery stores, shops, train stations and restaurants. Our serviced apartment was much closer to school, which meant I would walk there or catch conveniently placed public transport.

We were just so close to everything, Walking was actually easier than driving especially when you think of the parking. I found myself walking everywhere. This was great because I did more exercise (steps on my Fitbit). I think I was doing an extra 10km more walking per week in the city!

Starting our walk to school under the Queen Victoria building.


Sometimes we allowed dad to walk to school with us 😉 He always insisted on the scenic route!

Almost at school!


Getting dinner with my sister


Sleep and Noise

The city is always buzzing with energy and with noise. The Meriton apartments which we were staying in were skyscrapers, but even on the 54th floor, when I would open the windows, I could hear the city below! The rooms were so well insulated from noise, that when you closed the windows the sound went away.

Mirrors on the ceiling. OMG!

Mirrors at all angles.

The difference

The whole family liked living in the city. One big difference I noticed was the amount of waiting you did for the lift. And a couple of times they stopped working and we had to walk down 54 flights of stairs before school. Much, much harder than you think!

I asked my sister what she liked about living in the city, she said:
“I felt like I was living at the peak of human civilisation”.

Looking down the gap in the lift was very scary!


Have you ever lived away from home without all your ‘stuff’? That was my experience, what was yours?



My Experience with the Microsoft Hololens

Recently my Grandma passed away, and my sister and I posted about her and the speeches we made for her. Soon after my Grandma’s brother passed away and my mum and our whole extended family have been very sad. So last weekend at the wake, I took the Hololens to brighten the mood. Everyone tried it and I even convinced the Grandma’s to try it on. You can see in the video it was hilarious!!

I was lucky enough to be one of the first people in Australia to get the opportunity to try out Microsoft’s latest gadget, the Hololens. It is a developer edition that my dad received for work. I have used it for a week now playing games, exploring our solar system and watching movies. I believe that the Hololens is awesome fun and will be very popular. This might even be the Apple iPhone moment for Microsoft. As soon as I put it on, I could tell that it was incredibly well developed; it wasn’t slow or blocky, it was smooth and impressive. Let me tell you about my experience:

Putting it on.
As a 12 year old child, putting it on was a bit difficult. BTW it does have a warning that children 15 years and under should not use it, presumably because they think we would break it. 🙂 I initially struggled with being able to see the screen; I was always either squinting up or down, making it difficult to see. Maybe this was because my head is too small.

A Hololens is just over 1/2 a kilogram and working with it is a totally different feeling to working with a computer, and I certainly can’t imagine working with it for hours at a time! I had mine on for about an hour or so at a time before I took a break. When I took it off, well let’s just say I was hallucinating! I kept thinking there were screens around me and my head felt really light, sort of like when you have just got off a hoverboard after riding around on it for hours.

Things to do on the Hololens:
The Hololens has games, applications and the internet, basically everything that the computer has and that I would need. My favourite app of all is the game called RoboRaid – that requires a bit of running around and dodging – and of course to relax watching movies on Netflix is fun! The Hololens also has some awesome applications, like Solar Explorer, where you can see our solar system and everything in it, in great detail! The Hololens also has an incredibly clear image and 64 GB of storage, which does not seem enough when I compare it with my laptop which has 1 TB. I asked Stephen Carter about this and he told me that the size is enough when you consider the size of average Hololens applications are less than 100 MBs.


Me eating breakie while using the hololens, no need to worry about dirtying anything!

Overall Experience:
The Microsoft Hololens is an amazing piece of technology, but I am no geek! Any geek would be able to tell you about the special features of the Hololens, which apps you can use to code in it etc, but I can’t!  I did see a Hololen’s presentation by Stephen Carter in the SSW Chapel and it was all about the history of the Hololens and what you can make for it.

I sadly don’t have any money but I can tell you guys if I did, the Microsoft Hololens is definitely worth it. The developer edition is $3,000, which is very pricey, but after a while, I can imagine the price will drop substantially. Even if the price doesn’t drop, you could compare the cost of getting it instead of a computer. If you included the cost of a second monitor, mouse and keyboard, it will often be close to that. On the Hololens can have as many desktops as you would like, no need for a mouse or keyboard (and obviously a second monitor or computer), unless you are doing work in which case you would need a keyboard for typing.

So if you guys get a Hololens, tell me what you think in the comments below.


V-Fest 2016 – 3rd Place!

I entered my Google Maps Video with the inventor Noel Gordonxx into a video competition called V-Fest. After looking at the time limit of 6 minutes, I was turned off because my video is 10 minutes, but as I rewatched the video I realised that there were some scenes in the video which I was able to cut out and I would still have a great video. The video was shortened for the competition and I was informed I was one of the finalists. It was a great night and had loads of fun! A big congratulations to everyone who was shortlisted and especially to 1st and 2nd place!!

It was a great night and amazing to see how different my video was up on a big screen. A big congratulations to everyone who was shortlisted and especially to 1st and 2nd place!!

Deborah Cave and Ruby Cogan

Winners – Juniors

1st:  ELEVATOR PARADIGM – Melissa Q. (North Sydney Girls High School)

2nd: PUPPETEERS – Zack Lewin (Blakehurst High School)

3rd: GOOGLE MAPS – Ruby Cogan (St Vincent’s College)

Winners – Seniors

1st: FALLING BUT IN RISING – Tom Doyle (Barker College)

2nd: HALCYON – Lewis Clark (Rose Bay Secondary School)

3rd: DREAMS THAT STAY WITH YOU AFTER YOU WAKE – Anais Adolphe (Burwood Girls High School)

About V-Fest:

V-Fest is a short film competition run by Rosebay Secondary College for kids in year 7-12. If you want to enter here is a link to their website and this is their facebook page!

V-Fest – a Sydney annual student short film competition

Created in 1999 by Deborah Cave (17th year)

There are 3 winners in each section:
– Junior section: Years 7-10
– Senior section: Years 11-12

Hundreds of entries come each year from schools throughout Sydney.


Video: My Yiayia

Many people have unique and beautiful stories, but the one that I am about to tell you is very special to me.

Stavroula Mavrogeorgis is the grandmother (or Yiayia in Greek) of two children, Eve my older sister and me, Ruby Cogan. Stavroula, my Yiayia, had always wanted to be a godmother but no-one had her given her that opportunity. To her surprise in 2004, her daughter gave her the honour of being the godmother to her second grandchild, me! Which is funny, because that made my mother, my god sister.

Stavroula took her faith seriously. Although she did not go to church often, she prayed every day and taught me about the importance of God. She spent much effort and made the major Christian celebrations of Easter and Christmas, amazing. As part of the christening sacrament, in Greek tradition, the godparents give their godchild a crucifix, that is to last for the rest of their life. I still wear that crucifix to church today and it is the most beautiful and meaningful possession I have.

When my sister and I were little, my mum went back to work almost instantly, just four days after giving birth. This meant that Yiayia did the majority of the raising of Eve and I. She told us how she grew up in Greece with little food and money. Therefore as an adult, she was always very careful with her money but never let her children or grandchildren go hungry. So we learnt the important tenets in life, food, spending money carefully and education.

My Yiayia spent the first part of her life working in a factory and the second part as a cleaner. She used all her money to pay for my mum and auntie’s Catholic school education and unfortunately because of the long hours she spent working, she was unable to attend any school events. So when my sister and I came along, she loved us more than anything in this world, she thought of us as a second chance to raise children.

When I turned 5, I started my schooling education. My Yiayia had ended her education at the age of 14, in year 6, because her parents were no longer able to afford it and needed her help. She told us she wished that she could have finished her education. She expected that everyone would take their education opportunity seriously and not just try, but succeed.

As we grew up Yiayia told Eve and I stories about her life, how she had met Papou and about her garden when my mum was growing up. She was very proud of her green thumb and always loved gardening. When my mum was young she told me of her great garden with tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, the different varieties of colourful flowers and much more. With all those vegetables, she used them to make the most delicious dinners. When I grew up I helped her with her garden. Often she would create a whole new dish purely because there was an abundance of a vegetable in her garden. I still remember getting pumpkin soup every night for a month!

After starting from the bottom, Yiayia was now financially secure, although she still lived like she was poor. Spending money on a holiday seemed ludicrous, but if her grandchildren were going and my dad was paying for it, she would love to come. She especially loved the buffets and to spend the day by the pool or ocean. Essentially she just liked having a relaxing time with us.

Yiayia kept us fed with only healthy food. She always kept us dressed well too. She sewed our uniforms back together, fixed the hems and covered up the holes we made. But most importantly, she loved us. Yiayia was diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer (stage three) in March last year and the doctors predicted she had one to three months left. Yiayia was very brave and decided to try Chemotherapy because the doctors advised it could buy her more time. She made it all the way until March this year. Nine precious extra months.

I am grateful to have had my grandmother in my life, she was a beautiful, kind and talented person. I am missing you already Yiayia, I love you.

RIP my beautiful Yiayia

5 November 1939 – 31 March 2016. 76 years old

My sister also blogged about our Yiayia 

Video: School Captain Valedictory Speech

This year I had the honour of being the girl school captain of my school, Claremont College, for 2015.

Of all the speeches I did this year, my favourite was my Valedictory Speech in front of the students, parents and teachers. I loved writing the speech because it was a trip down memory lane, remembering all of the amazing moments my year has had in our past 7 years at Claremont.

I had a really amazing time this year with my partner, the boy school captain, Tom Findlay. We did so many amazing things together, as part of our roles we greeted guests, conducted tours around the school to prospective parents and many other things that took me out of the class room. I started each Monday at the school assembly with the acknowledgement to our country and worked a lot with my school principal, Mr Doug Thomas.

Something that I didn’t expect and that I really enjoyed about my role, was many parents would regularly speak to me and that meant I was able to get to know many of the parents.

For me, the best thing were the speeches. I made many speeches on many different occasions, whether it be at the Mother’s Day breakfast or the Anzac Day Service. I’m lucky that I now have more experience speaking.

I am so grateful for all the opportunities that I have had this year at Claremont College. I really loved my school and the school community. Over the past 7 years I have had an amazing experience and now I am ready for high school.

I hope you liked my speech!