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TeenTech calls on kids to pass on Stem excitement

At the 2016 Teen Tech ceremony, TeenTech’s founder Maggie Philbin and the Duke of York called on kids to inspire future participants

Not-for-profit company TeenTech has asked its participants to promote the programme to inspire other kids to take part in the future.

During the 2016 awards ceremony, TeenTech founder Maggie Philbin asked the winners to be “ambassadors” for the brand to help young people realise how much they can achieve in the science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) sector, even while they are still in school.

Philbin said she wanted the students to see how “powerful” they are in Stem. “It’s easy to think you can’t do that until you’re a CEO. I cannot underline more heavily your roles as ambassadors and inspirers,” she said.

The number of people choosing to take A-Levels in computing is slowly rising, but there has been little growth in those taking tech subjects in recent years.

The Duke of York, Prince Andrew, is a TeenTech ambassador and supports many other education and technology initiatives. At the ceremony, he said the number of children interested in Stem is finally growing after a long period of disinterest.

“I find more young people, if they are given the opportunity and the access, become really ambitious about becoming somebody or something in the technology and the science world,” he said.

However, the curriculum does not always allow for creative self-led projects to inspire kids into technology. The duke said part of the lack of interest from many children or teachers will be because they have not heard of initiatives such as TeenTech.

He told the winners: “Your job is not only to go on and inspire other young people in your schools to do next year’s TeenTech, but also to add that inspiration farther afield.

“You have proven that you not only have the idea, but you have the capability to turn that idea into something that is going to solve your problem.”

How Stem breeds Stem

Philbin founded TeenTech to help inspire the next generation of engineers, scientists and technologists through the development of tech-based projects designed to change the world – a desire reflected in this year’s list of winners.

One of 2016’s winners, Alexandria Gyford, developed a cancer-detecting bra for the competition. She said she was inspired by her friend’s success the previous year – demonstrating the profound influence children’s peers have in encouraging them to pursue Stem.

Gyford was not the only winner to say her TeenTech project had sparked her interest in Stem, with one of the students who worked on biodegradable fishing net GreenNet saying she had not previously been interested in chemical engineering, but she had found the project very enlightening.

One of the students who worked on Navband also said taking part in TeenTech had sparked their interest in going into app development.

Pupils who had an existing interest in Stem were also inspired to continue with tech and science-based subjects later on in their education and careers.

Students behind bike light and car detector Sensosafe said: “We’ve always liked science, and in the awards we got to know the people in science and tech better. We’d love to do that sort of job.”

The UK is suffering from a lack of skilled tech graduates, but initiatives such as this can help students to progress in Stem fields, with one student offered a job following their TeenTech entry, and many more saying they’ve developed new skills – both technical and soft in nature.

The students behind school trip planning app MyST said they had learnt skills in teamwork, and added that they “got to see the different careers in computer science”.

Steering wheel attachment Steerclear’s pupils said: “We learnt how to program using Python and develop apps, but we also learnt how to work as a team.”

Getting girls into Stem

Many of the students who take part in TeenTech are girls. In 2016, eight of the 20 category prizes were awarded to teams of girls.

However, there’s no doubting the industry still has a problem, and girls have said they choose not to pursue Stem subjects as they think they are “too hard”.

The duke said there is a “cultural issue” surrounding the lack of women going into tech, and added that in subjects such as engineering girls are often better than boys.

“You have shown conclusively that with a little bit of access, a little bit of inspiration and a little bit of help from your teachers, both boys and girls can be just as successful in their chosen field as anybody else.”

TeenTech 2016 winners

The 2016 winners of TeenTech are:

Healthcare category

Won by David, Sankha and Hari from Loughborough Grammar School for “Medivest”, a wearable vest designed to detect epilepsy fits.

Energy category, sponsored by National Grid

Awarded to Adwaith at Westcliffe High School for Boys for “The Palat Engine”, an engine which uses alternative fuels and has environmentally friendly emissions.

Transport category, sponsored by Airbus

Won by Casper, David and Oliver from Caterham School for “Sensosafe”, a bike light that warns cyclists when cars are approaching.

Education category

Awarded to Milan, Imogen and Maria at Woldingham School for “MyST App”, a booking application that allows teachers to plan school trips.

Wearable technology category, sponsored by Maplin

Won by Alexandria from Alton Convent School for “Bras with Benefits”, a wearable device that detects breast cancer through changes to chemicals in the skin.

Music, media and entertainment category, sponsored by JVCKenwood

Won by Thomas and Sol from Gillingham School for “Sabretooth Music”, a music system that allows any speaker and any music collection to be paired together.

Environment category

Won by Isabelle and Kyoka at James Allen’s Girls’ School for “GreenNet”, a biodegradable fishing net.

Safety and security category, sponsored by Symantec

Won by Ted, James and Joshua from Welland Park Academy for “Blue-Key”, an internet of things application that allows users to open doors from their smartphone.

Retail and finance category

Awarded to Eve, Zara, Tia and Niamh from Notre Dame School for “Trolley Knowledge”, an application that helps shoppers navigate a supermarket.

Design and construction category, sponsored by Atkins

Won by Siana from Westminster Academy for “Emergency Necklace Bridge”, an easily transportable bridge for temporary repairs to damaged infrastructure.

Future of food category

Won by Iona, Isabel and Lucy from Alton Convent School for “Natural Nutrients”, a project that proposes insects are used as nutritional substitutes in impoverished countries.

Digital skills category, sponsored by Dell

Awarded to Alistair, William and Matthew from The King Edward VI School for “NavBand”.

Manufacturing award, sponsored by Cranfield University

Won by Chloe, Lini and Ashley from Loughborough High School for steering wheel add-on “Steerclear”.

Research and literacy award, sponsored by Cilip Information Literacy Group

Won by Matthew, Oliver and Archie from Oakham School for “K-Charge”, a shoe with an embedded battery that charges from the kinetic energy created by walking.

Best innovation – concept category

Won by Amy at Sandbach High School and Sixth Form College for “Bluetooth Speakers”, which are made from recycled books and vinyl records.

Best research project

Won by Sai from Loughborough Grammar School for research project “Biosense”, which looked into how to detect type 1 diabetes through home-based urine samples.

Best innovation award (model, prototype or product category), and consumer innovation award, sponsored by Maplin

Won by Harry at Oakham School for “Gust”, a cordless hairdryer designed to do less damage to hair.

People’s choice award

Won by Peter, Jim and Eddie from Impington Village College for mobile app “Let’s Get Biking”, which encourages children to cycle and allows parents to select safe riding routes for their children.

Teacher of the year category

Awarded to Natalie Radmore of Passmores Academy.

Read more about Stem skills

  • Edwina Dunn, chair of the Your Life campaign, says the tech industry must work harder to make students aware of Stem careers if it hopes to recruit more young people.
  • The IT industry is facing a growing Stem skills gap, so what does it think about the announcement of the Department for Education’s budget during the 2015 spending Review and Autumn Statement?

Read more on IT education and training

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