Shell’s Bright Ideas Challenge returns for 2018

£45,000 of educational prizes are available for winning schools whose pupils create innovative, creative solutions for the cities of the future

Shell has called for schools across Great Britain to enter The Bright Ideas Challenge, its national schools’ science competition, now in its third year. The competition invites students aged 11-14 to use their STEM skills and creativity to develop innovative solutions that could power our future cities. The prize for the best “bright idea” is £5,000 to super-size the winning school’s STEM teaching.

Over the last two years more than 800 student teams have taken part from as far afield as Aberdeen and Cornwall, with over £90,000 awarded to support STEM teaching in schools. Last year, the winning team was an all-girl team of five Year 8 students from Dr Challoner’s High School in Buckinghamshire. The team’s ‘bright idea’ would see everyone in future cities wearing innovative Eco wristbands, which would collect energy as people went about their daily lives. The idea won them £5,000 to improve the STEM learning experience at their school as well as a VIP trip to London for Make the Future Live.

As we come into the UK Year of Engineering 2018, The Bright Ideas Challenge offers a unique and hands-on experience that sparks young people’s curiosity in science and engineering. The competition also helps teachers to deliver the STEM curriculum in a fun and engaging way.

Other ingenious ‘bright ideas’ generated by the challenge over the last couple of years have ranged from piezoelectric sensors that convert the tiny vibrations from rain drops into electrical energy, to bacteria generators that convert food waste into electrical energy for homes. 

Students really thrived when they were asked to solve some of the big challenges we’re facing as a society. – Sadia Mirza, Teacher, Dr Challoner’s High School

Benefits to schools of entering the competition include:

  • Cross-curricular – it is designed to have broad appeal and to encourage students that might not self-identify as scientists to get involved.
  • CREST certification – competition takes a minimum of two and a half hours to complete, and if students spend approximately five hours on their project they could earn a CREST Discovery Award, accredited by the British Science Association.
  • Free – curriculum linked resources to provide teachers with all the key elements they need to run the competition, including a step-by-step Teacher Toolkit, Student Workbook and films to inspire students.
  • Flexibility – can be delivered as classroom, homework challenge or STEM club content.

Enter from today

The Bright Ideas Challenge is now open for entries, and will close at 5pm on April 27, 2018. Teachers can find a host of free curriculum linked resources, inspiration from previous entrants, and hints and tips on creating winning entries at

Prizes available

The competition rewards 14 teams across the country with £45,000 of STEM-related prizes.  In addition to money to support STEM teaching, all winning team members from across the UK are given a VIP trip to London for Make the Future Live, Shell’s four-day festival of ideas and innovation, due to be held in London next summer (2018).  The festival invites students to take a journey into the future of energy. It offers students the opportunity to experience how people use and create energy in everyday life and explore future possibilities. They’ll have the chance to take part in interactive science shows, hands-on activities and engaging careers experiences, as well as see the world’s most energy efficient vehicles battle it out at the world-famous Shell Eco-marathon.

Experience of taking part

Sadia Mirza, Teacher at Dr Challoner’s High School, said: “The experience of taking part in the challenge was brilliant for us. Students really thrived when they were asked to solve some of the big challenges we’re facing as a society. They put their STEM skills to work and the videos and materials helped us to hold creative brainstorming sessions and learn about future cities. The prize money has been a real boost to the school, we bought a range of equipment including STEM Robotics, K’NEX DNA Replication and Transcription set, and a MTa STEM Kit.”

In a first this year, schools that enter before January 19, 2018 will be entered into an ‘early bird’ prize draw. Five winning schools will each receive a facilitated STEM workshop at their school.

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