The finalists of a national tech prize for 11 to 16-year-olds have been announced by Nesta Challenges.
The Longitude Explorer Prize, which is funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industry Strategy (BEIS) and run by Nesta, challenges secondary school pupils to invent tech solutions to some of the world’s greatest challenges, including climate change, pollution and an ageing population.
Although all the entries were submitted before the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of UK school pupils have designed tech which could help alleviate the impact of such a major health crisis.
Forty teams from across the country have made the final, with a winner expected to be announced in July. The winning team will win £25,000 for their school or youth group, with two runners up receiving £10,000 a piece.
One team from Titus Salt School, from Baildon, West Yorkshire, have designed a device for young people who cannot attend school due to a disability. The edtech solution uses avatar technology to help students working remotely to engage with the classroom environment and their teacher.
The team from Wilmslow High School, Cheshire, have devised a loneliness buddy, which can match isolated people based on their interests and hobbies. The online chat platform would connect likeminded users after they completed a survey.
The team from West Exe School in Exeter have created a delivery robot to distribute vital medical supplies to people who cannot leave the house.
Now we need to supercharge those talents by embedding entrepreneurial skills in the classroom too
– Constance Agyeman, Nesta Challenges
‘Technological innovation is important to grow the UK economy’
Science minister Amanda Solloway said: “It is incredible to see how these young finalists have thought up innovations to tackle global challenges, from devices that detect health problems to robots which can remove plastic waste from our seas. Technological innovation is important to grow the UK economy and we are supporting young people to pursue careers in this area through schemes like the Longitude Explorer Prize.”
The award is designed to engage students with STEM industries, and focuses particularly on advertising the competition to girls, who are often unrepresented in STEM careers.
This year, girls accounted for more than half of all applicants to the competition.
Constance Agyeman, head of international development and communities at Nesta Challenges, said: “It is abundantly clear that our young people are passionate about the great challenges of our time and have the capacity, creativity and power of thought to make the world a better place.
“The significant emphasis on STEM education in recent years is hugely positive. Now we need to supercharge those talents by embedding entrepreneurial skills in the classroom too. We want to empower young people to not only have bold and brave ideas, but to take that next step, and make them a reality so they can transform the world for the better.”
The finalist teams will receive mentoring and support in the final round of the competition to develop their idea, produce designs and prototypes, and prepare pitches for the finals in the summer.
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(Header image credit: Beth Crockatt Photography)