On Wednesday June 26th, at the Palace of Westminster, Solutions for the Planet welcomed this year’s twelve teams to the National Final of the Big Ideas Competition 2019, and it was another day full of excitement and inspiration!
We were thrilled to welcome our largest contingent of mentors so far, representing our business partners – we were happy so many of them could make it as they have again, as always, been an integral part of the teams’ journey to the Final. We were pleased to welcome parents and special guests too, plus our wonderful panel of judges, most of whom were also representatives from our business partners, but also included S4TP Board member Melanie Taylor.
Speaking of the judges – we were incredibly proud and grateful that Kimi Omolokun was able to accept our offer of a place on the panel. Kimi was a member of the team who won the first ever Solutions for the Planet competition back in 2008! It was wonderful to have her back as a judge 11 years later, and hear the journey she’s been on since then. She has just finished her medical degree, and she attributes her involvement with the competition as a catalyst that set her on her STEM journey. Read more about her team’s 2008 win here.
Our students, their teachers, their parents, and mentors were treated to a tour of parliament by the fantastic visitor team ahead of lunch in Portcullis House. Our main sponsor, the Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP, was on hand, as always, 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.
The judges knew how tough their task was going to be, having already had a week to examine each teams’ incredibly detailed business plans, however these presentations really did raise the bar. There were some creative engagement techniques shown and excellent storytelling and the use of prototypes brought the students’ ideas alive, but the actual scope of the ideas was truly inspirational. We listened to plans for life-saving wearable tech; a filter that collects microfibres which can be retro-fitted to washing machines; an intergenerational beach clean for inner-city residents and even a project to tackle fast fashion. 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 Bee Aware from Hall Cross Academy. This team are passionate about protecting existing bee habitats, educating younger generations about the importance of bees and creating new and exciting habitats. The judges were particularly impressed that the team was already generating income and had a very well-researched and well-presented idea.
Second place went to Focus from Arden Academy. This team want to tackle water wastage and help you save money and reduce your carbon footprint at the same time. They have designed a product called the Focus Flow, that can attach to your shower to alert you to when you should finish your shower. The app tracks your time, water usage, money spent and CO2 used so that you can use that information to bring all those figures down.
In first place, were RenewAbus from Mayfield School in Portsmouth. RenewAbus is a completely self-sufficient, upcycled, recycled bus that is totally reliant on not using any combustion to power it. This means it will not be using fossil fuels in any way, and so not release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, therefore is carbon neutral. Instead, RenewAbus will be completely reliant on using SEVEN various forms of renewable energy resources to power it.
The judges were so impressed with the amount of scientific knowledge the students showed, as well as their prototype, and the connections they’d made and conversations they had already started having with companies like Stagecoach. One member of their team has already applied for a patent for one aspect of the design that he came up with – keep a future eye out for EERS (Elam Energy recovery System)!
Although there can only be one Competition winner, S4TP truly believes that all our entrants are winners due to the incredible amount of hard work, passion, courage and determination they have shown. The twelve finalist teams had to compete against 157 other teams, and get through two rounds of judging to get to this stage. All the judges and guests commented on how far the ideas had progressed, and the sense of confidence the young people showed was palpable.
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 year’s cycle!
We would also like to thank all the MPs that made time to come and support the teams from their constituencies, many of whom also took to social media to show their support! We even had a visit from Sue Hayman, Shadow Environment Secretary, despite her schedule being mostly taken up with the The Time is Now climate lobby being held that day.
Finally, we would like to thank all our business partners for their ongoing support of and belief in the programme: Tarmac, IGEM, SGN, Brammer Buck & Hickman, Mears and SUEZ. Thank you, too, to our partner BIC for providing us with all our pens and glue for the programme, from their Ecolutions range.
So many of this year’s teams have already started putting their Big Ideas into practice, and we can’t wait to hear updates from them and their schools so we can follow and support their progress. There was no doubt, as we watched them present and talked to them afterwards, that we were in the presence of change-makers.
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 our next cohort of young people from across the country!