MNA STEM challenge: We’ve got formula for success - with pictures

By Heather Large | Education | Published:

Budding engineers, maths whizzes and future scientists demonstrated their innovative products during the judging day for the MNA STEM Challenge 2018.

The competition was launched by the MNA, publisher of the Shropshire Star and Express & Star, to promote the importance of the key Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths subjects.

Each team of six students had been tirelessly working towards the challenge for the last six months.

Among the teams taking part in the challenge was In Our Jeans from Castle High School in Dudley, mentored by Tom Batham and San Shevyn from Phoenix Materials Testing. They had invented a tent for homeless people with a built-in funnel to catch and filter rainwater. Science teacher and STEM co-ordinator Kati Taylor said: “It’s been a massive team effort. They have really engaged with science and they’ve got a lot out of it.”

Vibrating glasses for the blind was Oldbury Academy’s product

ExoSkel from Oldbury Academy, partnered with voestalpine Metsec plc came up with the idea for a pair of glasses that had a built-in vibrator to warn blind or visually-impaired people when an object or person is close.

“It’s called the Ultra Lens and the idea is that’s more discreet than having a stick,” said 15-year-old Jai Mann.

The Monarchs from The Royal School, Wolverhampton wanted to help people with Seasonal Affective Disorder. The team, partnered with Finning CAT, created a device fitted to a bike to enable mechanical energy from pedalling to power light therapy. Oliver Furnival, aged 13, said: “It’s been fun and we’ve learned a lot.” Pupils from Telford Park School and their mentor Joe Dawes from Veolia visited The Lyneal Trust, near Ellesmere, a charity offering canal boat holidays for people with disabilities and their family, friends and carers.



The team, named Serious About Science, made a steering tiller for the charity’s adapted canal boats which cater for disabled people. Science teacher Hannah Newey said: “The visit to the charity was really beneficial and they were able to see how their idea could help other people.”

Team LITE (Langley Infinite Technological Enhancement) from Telford Langley School, manufactured Quiet Mind with the help of mentor Lee Drummond, director of teaching and learning at Telford-based Cadco. They have created a device to soothe people who might be suffering from stress or anxiety. If they can’t concentrate, there are lots of different materials and switches for them to play with and it can help them to feel calmer. “We had a few problems but we are pleased with how it turned out,” said Erin Tilley, 14.

A right-angle tent, made from recycled materials which repel water, aimed at making life more comfortable for rough sleepers was the creation of the Fabulous 6 from Colton Hills Community School.

Madeley Academy in Telford won the prize for Best Team Work with their shelter for homeless people that is both waterproof and insulated from cold


Mentor Laura Palmer from City of Wolverhampton Council said: “It’s a beautiful idea they’ve come up with – they really wanted to help rough sleepers.”

Plan B from Penkridge Middle School had made a PH adaption kit for soil to enable people to grow healthy fruit and vegetables wherever they live. The team worked with mentor Andy Snape from Stafford College. “It would benefit people who can’t afford to eat healthily,” said 13-year-old Sophie Burgess. Solution Squad from The Marches School, Oswestry designed a computer app called taaz to help people with early stages of memory loss.

It provides a range of memory exercises which can be personalised with details and photographs from their lives. Physics teacher Russell Thomas said: “They really wanted to help people with Alzheimer’s and they’ve come up with a really good idea.”

The ‘plug mate’ designed by Staffordshire University Academy’s team

The STEMinists from St Peter’s Collegiate School, Wolverhampton, designed an exercise device to help disabled people and people with MS to build muscle strength and benefit their motor skills.

Design and technology teacher Matthew Buck said: “It’s been a great experience for them and they’ve had a lot of opportunities they wouldn’t normally have had.”

The team representing Sandwell Academy – The Sandwell Project – invented A Puzzle Cast to benefit people with anxiety who suffer an injury. Mentor Neil Edwards from Western Power Distribution said: “There have been a few challenges along the way but when they’ve come up against a brick wall they’ve pushed past it or engineered a way around it.”


Q3 Quanta from Q3 Academy Great Barr made a water filtration kit, for the developing world, that uses natural materials that are readily available.

Head of Science Rob Burlace said: “It has really inspired them, a couple of them want to go into engineering and a couple want to go into the forces.”

Students at Moor Park in Ludlow designed The Cam-Castor to enable local charity Megan Baker House to adjust the height of chairs for disabled children. The team called The Laetificators also used a Victorian printing press to make greeting cards which the charity can sell to raise funds and worked with mentors from North Shropshire College.

The XSTEMINATORS from Abbots Bromley School invented a smart bracelet that could call an ambulance and set reminders for people to take medication. It also has a compartment for tablets.

Sandwell Academy’s team with a puzzle cast that they have created

Enja Stenton-Doe, 13, said: “We wanted to make something that could help a lot of people whatever their needs.”

Team SUA from Staffordshire University Academy created a bath-time assistant to help blind and visually impaired people draw a bath without fear of overfilling the tub. “It’s called a plug mate and it beeps when the bath is full so you don’t waste water,” said Chloe Payne, 14. The team’s mentors were Melanie Fleet and Terry Nightingale from Thyssenkrupp UK. A pen to help pupils with ADHD was the product made by The Imagineers from Q3 Langley. Made with sensory materials for soothing children’s anxiety, it also had a lava lamp to focus attention. Learning assistant Kate Williamson said: “They’ve done really well. They have really enjoyed it.”

Adcote School for Girls won Best Operating Model with their light wheelchair ramp

Brownhills School was represented by The Brownhills Engineering, Science and technology Challengers and was partnered with Black Country Chamber of Commerce. They had designed a ‘life survival kit’ which includes a water filter kit, collapsable bowl and cup and torch. Maths teacher Emily Harris said: “It’s been amazing to see the progress, especially with confidence, that they have made.”

* The winner of the Best Overall category was Thorns Collegiate Academy in Quarry Bank, Sir John Talbot’s School Whitchurch won Best Presentation and Madeley Academy in Telford won Best Team Work. Holly Hall Academy in Dudley walked away with the prize for Best Work Plan and Adcote School for Girls in Shrewsbury won Best Operating Model.

Heather Large

By Heather Large
Special projects reporter - @HeatherL_star

Senior reporter and part of the Express & Star special projects team specialising in education and human interest features.


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