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STEM challenge opens for budding young scientists

BP launches third 'Ultimate STEM Challenge' for 11-14 year olds to boost engagement in schools

Posted by Stephanie Broad | September 02, 2016 | Technology

BP has announced the launch of its annual competition – the Ultimate STEM Challenge – for the third consecutive year in partnership with STEM Learning and the Science Museum. The competition invites young people aged 11-14 across the UK to put their Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) skills to the test by tackling real-world challenges.

We live in a world of rapid change where developments in technology can transform societies, economies and industries. History tells us that companies that do not anticipate or adapt to new technologies struggle to survive. On the other hand, companies with leading technologies are often the most competitive and successful. Encouraging the engineers and scientists of the future is crucial for the continued success of many of the UK’s key industries.

Last year more than 600 students took part in the competition, themed around increasing efficiency. This year, students are being challenged to use their creativity to design an energy efficient solution to one of three real-world challenges: 

1. Rescue Rockets

2. Future Flight

3. Auto Arm

The challenges have been developed to ensure they reflect the energy efficiency considerations that apply across all of BP’s operations, including how we inspect and maintain equipment, support our staff and explore new territories.

All challenges can be completed by groups of two to four students at a STEM club, in class or as an independent project. Teachers will also have the opportunity to request support from a STEM Ambassador.

The competition has been developed based on insights from the ground-breaking ‘Enterprising Science’ research which shows that the more science capital (science-related qualifications, interest, literacy and social contacts) a young person has, the more likely they are to pursue a STEM career.

The Ultimate STEM Challenge aims to give young people the opportunity to see themselves as scientists and engineers of the future and encourage them to continue studying STEM subjects and pursue STEM careers.

To enter, teams will need to create a short film or presentation showcasing their project. Teachers need to submit these before the deadline of 13 January 2017 using the online form on the BP Educational Service website at   

Finalists will be invited to a celebratory final event during British Science Week.  There, they will present their work to the judging panel and compete for prizes, including an Ultimate STEM experience day, £500 to spend on science equipment or field trips and Science Museum goodies.

Last year’s Ultimate STEM Challenge was won by three students from Toot Hill School in Bingham, Nottinghamshire with their energy efficient design for wind turbines. Mary Sowter, part of Toot Hill School’s winning team, said: “I can’t believe it. When I found out we were going to London I was so excited, and to have won has topped off an amazing day. I’ve learnt so much from seeing the other schools’ projects, and today has really inspired me to take part in more STEM challenges in the future.”

Ian Duffy, head of communications and community development for BP in the UK, said: “We want every young person, regardless of their background, to benefit from the opportunities that a STEM education and career can provide. We are learning from our Enterprising Science research that an effective way to build science capital and foster STEM learning among young people is to show how science is meaningful and relevant to their lives. The Ultimate STEM Challenge does this by showing students how real-world applications flow from classroom science and maths.

We hope that this year’s challenges will inspire those who think science ‘isn’t for them’ to take part.”

Yvonne Baker, chief executive at the National STEM Learning Centre and Network said: “We are delighted to be a partner of the Ultimate STEM Challenge, which is a great example of an initiative developing young people’s creativity, problem-solving, employability skills and enjoyment of STEM.

By incorporating the STEM Ambassadors and STEM Clubs alongside our high-quality CPD, resources and support for teachers and technicians, we want to encourage schools to take part in more initiatives like these. STEM Ambassadors can open up a world of opportunities providing insights about how students’ STEM learning relates to the real-world and the different careers within it, and so I would strongly encourage schools to take up this opportunity.”

Tom O’Leary, director of learning at the Science Museum said: “The Science Museum is delighted to be a partner in the Ultimate STEM Challenge for a third year and looks forward to celebrating participants’ achievements at the final event. Museums and science centres play a crucial role in driving career aspirations in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and through our involvement in the Enterprising Science research we continue to explore new and exciting ways to build science capital in young people and their families.”  

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