Four pupils from the Wells Cathedral School in Somerset, England, have won oil major BP’s inaugural Ultimate STEM Challenge competition.
The competition is open to students aged between 11 and 14 across the UK and aims to test their science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills by tacking real-world energy problems.
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 that involved finding ways to keep warm, stay hydrated or keep cool.
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. The team was named winner at a ceremony at the Science Museum in London Monday this week.
Megan Taylor, a member of the winning team, said: “It’s been a really cool experience and we learnt loads along the way. I didn’t realize 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 GBP 500 [$750] was fantastic! I hope our teachers are proud of us.”
The Ultimate STEM Challenge is an extension of BP’s Ultimate Field Trip competition that sees teams of university students tasked to come up with solutions to practical engineering problems connected to energy. It was developed in collaboration with King’s College London – which is a research partner in BP’s Enterprising Science Program. King’s College’s research showed that, despite 70 percent of school children stating that the find science interesting and that scientists can make a difference in the world, only around 15 percent aspire to become scientists.
Ian Duffy, Community Development Manager for BP in the UK, commented in a company statement:
“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 £1.75 million [$2.6 million] every year in the UK in activities to encourage more young people to take up STEM subjects and careers.”
Earlier this month, BP held the finals of the UK version of its Ultimate Field Trip competition, which saw a team from Sheffield University win a trip to the firm’s operations in Trinidad and Tobago.