BP, the international oil and gas company, has announced that four students from Wells Cathedral Senior School in Somerset have won the inaugural Ultimate STEM Challenge competition.
The nationwide schools competition, launched in September 2014 by BP, STEMNET and the Science Museum, challenged students aged 11-14 to test their Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) skills by tackling some real-world energy problems.
Research revealed lack of STEM aspiration amongst young
The competition, an extension of BP’s existing Ultimate Field Trip for university students, was developed as a result of ground-breaking research conducted by King’s College London, the research partner in BP’s Enterprising Science programme.
The research showed that despite 70% of school children saying that they ‘learn interesting things in science’ and that ‘scientists make a difference in the world’, only around 15% ‘aspire to become a scientist’.
With the UK needing to produce twice the number of engineers with the right qualifications to fill nearly two million job openings expected by 2020, it is critical to increase the level of STEM participation from a young age.
Megan Taylor part of the winning team, spoke about what it was like to win the first Ultimate STEM Challenge. She said: “It’s been a really cool experience and we’ve learnt loads along the way. I didn’t realise science could be so much fun and I now hope to study it for my GCSEs and A-levels. The day trip to the Science Museum and winning £500 was fantastic! I hope our teachers are proud of us”.
Ian Duffy, Community Development Manager for BP in the UK said: “On behalf of BP, a big congratulations goes to Wells Cathedral Senior School, they have shown determination, resilience and creativity in their thinking – all of which are excellent skills to take into studying STEM subjects.
If we are to meet the demand for STEM talent in the UK, we need to get more children, from more diverse backgrounds, involved in science. We can’t have kids who love science dropping out at GCSE level because they underestimate themselves and think science is for the nerdy few. This is exactly why BP runs initiatives such as the Ultimate STEM Challenge and invests around £1.75m every year in the UK in activities to encourage more young people to take up STEM subjects and careers”.
The first Ultimate STEM Challenge
This year’s challenges, of which there were three in total, were all based around the theme of using STEM to help us explore, live and work in challenging environments. Working in groups of two to four, students could choose from three challenges. The three challenges were:
Wells Cathedral Senior School’s solution focused on how to keep hydrated in extreme environments. The team developed a portable Solar Still Solution called S3. The device uses solar energy to produce drinking water from salt or polluted water anywhere in the world.
Adapted from press release by Cecilia Rehn