Year 9 students Eadie Hall and Holly Morris, from Mary Webb School and Science College, scooped the runners-up award in the finals of the prestigious Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Competition.
With plastic pollution making headline news all over the world, the team wanted to research how plastics are made and identify whether a biodegradable alternative could be made from waste food. Their project, Potato Plastic, looked at doing this using potato starch.
The duo reached the UK finals of the competition having won a place in the regional heats. Their project was initially designed and consequently won the Shropshire Star STEM Challenge 2019, which challenged 14 schools from across Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin to create a working prototype using the elements of STEM – science, technology, engineering and maths – to showcase to a panel of business experts.
With the help of mentors from design & technology companies around Shropshire, 14 teams of six pupils had six months to design a product that has a positive benefit for an individual/group and the environment, or just the environment.
Mary Webb students then developed their idea further to be entered into The Big Bang Competition.
More than 300 young people from across the country were selected to be finalists at the event, which is an annual contest designed to recognise and reward young people's achievements in all elements of STEM, as well as helping them build skills and confidence in project-based work. The finals usually take place in March but when that was cancelled in light of the coronavirus, the team at the Big Bang Fair asked finalists to submit a video presentation, from which 50 STEM professionals with specialisms across a range of areas including astronomy, antimicrobials, health monitoring, underwater acoustics and toxicology, identified the winners.
The pupils won £250 in prize money to continue on their STEM journey as well as a trophy and certificate.
Previous winners have gone on to enjoy a range of other achievements on the back of their successes – including getting support from businesses for their projects, and taking part in conference presentations to industry professionals as well as appearing on television and radio shows to talk about their project.
Hilary Leevers, chief executive of EngineeringUK, which organises the competition, said: “The judges have been blown away by the quality of entries from all the finalists – not only for their brilliant new ideas but for how eloquently they spoke about them in their videos that were submitted. We’ve also been really impressed with all of the students for their passion and resilience in taking part this year in spite of the hugely challenging circumstances, including some students being in self-isolation during the process. Huge congratulations to Eadie and Holly whose innovative project has seen them awarded as the junior runner up in the science category of The Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Competition.
“It certainly bodes well for the future that the scientists, engineers and inventors of tomorrow are already producing such astute and creative project work – congratulations to all those involved.”