Wednesday July 11th saw the tenth annual final of the Big Ideas competition, and it really was a day to remember! The entire S4TP team and board were present to welcome twelve teams to the Palace of Westminster for an action-packed day of tours, presentations, MP meetings and our final awards ceremony.
Due to our expanding geographical footprint, this year saw us welcome teams from Portsmouth to Glasgow and nine cities in between! The mix of accents really added to the buzz of this already exciting event, and provided a great opportunity for our young people to network with like-minded students from across the country. We were also thrilled to welcome a number of mentors from our partner companies; Tarmac, Arcadis, Brammer Buck & Hickman, IGEM, Mears Group and SGN, plus special guests, parents and local MPs.
Our students, their teachers, their parents, and mentors were treated to a tour of parliament by the fantastic visitor team ahead of a delicious lunch in Portcullis House. Our main sponsor, the Right Honourable Hillary Benn, was on hand to deliver a motivating welcome speech before it was on to the serious part of the day, the teams’ presentations. With just 5 minutes plus questions, our teams had to sell the Big Idea they had been working on for the past several months to our panel of esteemed judges. This included S4TP board member Kat Luckock, representatives from all partner companies and our youth judge, Rishi Kumar, from last years’ second placed team, Hyper Monkeys.
All judges knew how tough their task was going to be, having already had a week to examine each teams’ detailed business plans, however these presentations really did raise the bar. There were some creative engagement techniques on offer including questions for the audience and an interview-style presentation, but the actual scope of the ideas was truly inspirational. We listened to plans for an ocean-cleaning vacuum, a bike recycling scheme for East London, an algae-powered battery and even a wind turbine converting CO2 to Carbonic Acid. All teams delivered their ideas with such infectious passion that it was impossible not to feel an overwhelming sense of optimism about future environmental solutions. However, the judges had a decision to make and after much deliberation they returned to announce their results.
Third place was awarded to Skills4Change from King Richard School in Portsmouth. This team have masterminded a community vegetable growing scheme designed to tackle mental health issues amongst homeless people, providing them with a purpose and an opportunity to develop new skills.
Second place went to Cap Beast from Biggar High School in Lanarkshire. This team of young farmers are developing a cap for slurry tanks which will allow harmful methane gas to be collected and transferred to a generator where it can be used to power the farm or sold back to the National Grid making profit for the farmer.
In first place, were the Sea Savers from Hodge Hill College in Birmingham. These boys have completely revolutionised the environmental credentials of their school by removing plastic from all their catering options. This was achieved following consultations with Aspens who are now rolling out their plastic-free offering in 63 UK schools, inspired by this team’s vision. This year, for the first time in the Competition’s history, each member of the winning team also received a year’s subscription to National Geographic Kids magazine!
Although there can only be one competition winner, S4TP truly believe that all our entrants are winners due to the incredible amount of hard work, passion, and determination they have shown. These twelve teams have already overcome numerous set-backs and got through two rounds of judging to get to this stage. Never before have we seen such well-developed, tried and tested ideas at our National Final.
Every single young person involved in these projects should feel incredibly proud.
We would also like to extend a huge thank you to the teachers who have tirelessly supported these teams, giving up their precious time to run development sessions, read business plans and organise the trips to regional and national finals. We value your support enormously and the programme would not be what it is without your enthusiasm and commitment. Our business mentors have also been crucial to the development of ideas, as this year we assigned teams of mentors to each school, creating a regular support network. We would like to express our sincere gratitude for their commitment to the programme and hope to see them all again for next years’ cycle!
The National Final is always one of the highlights of the S4TP calendar, but this year really did raise the bar and was a fitting tribute for our 10-year anniversary. Many of our guests and MPs left saying they felt inspired by the passion of our teams to address local and global issues. This is no surprise for the S4TP team – this year has seen us deliver 32 Big Ideas Days across the country and each one has shown us just how motivated young people are to make this world a better place and tackle major sustainability challenges. The summer will now see us reflect upon this years’ programme, digest our feedback and recharge for next academic year. Come September we will be ready to do it all again and meet the next cohort of young change makers from across the country!