BIEA STEM launches ‘truly inclusive’ Youth Innovation competition

This year’s competition focuses on cross-curricular learning and fighting extinction through technology

The British International Education Association (BIEA) has launched the second edition of its Youth Innovation competition, with a focus on fighting extinction.

Running in association with international conservation charity Born Free, the initiative challenges children aged 9–17 to design and develop a drone to help fight extinction and preserve vulnerable animal species.

Dr Alex Holmes, competition designer and host of the BIEA STEM conference, emphasised that there is a diversity to this year’s competition that allows for true inclusivity.

She told Education Technology: “Cross-disciplinary work is something the competition really encourages. It isn’t just science; there is design and tech, there is innovation, there is art. We’re looking at creativity.”

This year’s inaugural BIEA STEM conference was launched to expand the reach of the Youth Innovation competition to global audiences. Speaking to ET, Holmes stressed the difficulty of international promotion, relative to marketing an event in the UK.

She said: “The competition is based on a global phenomenon – biodiversity – so it doesn’t matter if you’re in the Arctic or Australia, it applies everywhere.”

“The idea behind the conference was to invite a series of guests from different countries, who could then take the word back to their own country and disseminate that way.”

This year’s competition focuses on the conservation of endangered species such as Rhinos

The competition also encourages students to consider the ethical implications of technology, not only in relation to humans, but in the world of conservation and animal welfare, encouraging young people to have a critical and balanced view of the world.

Just weeks after Gatwick Airport was closed following reported sightings, drones have attracted some bad press. But Holmes does not believe the headlines should be a deterrent. She said: “Yes there are negative things happening with drones, and yes I want the kids to find out about them.”

She added: “The competition stipulates that you need to look at both the disadvantages and the advantages, and you need to debate those ethics and convince the judges that your idea is an ethically sound one.”

The conference was held this week at the Royal Institution (RI) in London, and brought together experts from across the field of conservation, as well as spokespeople for encouraging young people to pursue STEM.

Conference presentations covered topics such as using machine learning to identify animals, the benefit of tech to conservationists on the ground, and fixed-wing drones in marine environments. A panel discussion on how to engage young people in STEM was also held, hearing from panellists including RI director Dr Shaun Fitzgerald, and the British Science Association’s Jane Dowden.

The competition is open to pupils aged 9–17, and more information about how to enter and competition rules can be found at bieacompetition.org.uk

The deadline for report entries is March 31 2019.