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Schools show off designs at Express & Star STEM Challenge

By Jamie Brassington | Education | Published:

Engineers of the future came up with clever designs to solve dirty drinking water problems, fire hazards for deaf people and the environmental impact of litter.

These were some of the brilliant winning products that impressed judges during the finale of the Express & Star's STEM challenge.

Seventeen Black Country schools were given a special brief to design a product that would benefit an individual group or the environment.

Each team worked hard on their products for several months, before they were put forward to a panel of expert judges, at Dudley College's Construction and Apprenticeship Training Centre, in Brierley Hill.

The competition, now in its second year, challenged students to make the products using science, technology, engineering and maths - also known as STEM.

Thinking outside the box

Dudley College assistant principal Debbie Goode said the competition was about getting children "to think outside the box" as we enter the "fourth industrial revolution".

Ms Goode continued: "We are keen to promote careers in this sector particularly because there is such a growing skills need in the region.

Neil Thomas, principal of Dudley College

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"There is a lot of industries where the workforce is aged and people will be retiring, and they need people with suitable skills to come up behind them and take those jobs.

"We see STEM as being in every part of life. There won't be a part of people's existence that doesn't have some technology built into it, whether that is artificial intelligence, hybrid vehicles, synthetic food, it is going to be everywhere.

"Our principal Neil (Thomas) told the students this morning that there has never been a better time to be interested in science."

Each team had an industry expert to help them and there was five awards up for grabs during the final on Thursday.

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However, each participating school was congratulated on taking part and organisers said every product idea was impressive.

Innovation

The Overall Winner, judged by headline sponsor Dudley College, was the Q3 Academy Langley, based in Oldbury, who called themselves The Imagineers. They made a range of board games for blind people.

On the winning team's table was a Connect 4 game that could be played vertically and horizontally.

Express & Star editor Martin Wright

The team's industry expert Kira Edwards, a sales manager at Petford Group, said: "The team have done so amazing and I am really proud.

"They have been really committed to the project and have worked so hard - before school and after school.

"They made a four-in-a-row game and even tested it at the Beacon Centre (for the blind)."

The team was made up of Year 9 students. Among them was Jimmy Chinn, aged 14, who said: "I didn't expect us to win really, this is overwhelming."

Fellow teammate Chloe Yarwood, 14, said: "We have decided to donate 100 games to the Beacon Centre.

Lead STEM ambassador Malcolm Eyre

"I think it is amazing that people will be playing something that we designed.

"It is great to think we have made an impact."

There is a possibility that the Connect 4 product could be put into production and go on the market.

This is what happened last year when 66,000 iPad stands for visually impaired people, designed by the 2018 winning team, went on the market.

Prizes

The first award of the night, for Best Presentation, which was judged by University of Wolverhampton, was won by King Edwards 6 High School, Stafford, who were called Kings of Science.

The team designed a mechanical litter-picker which can be used on an industrial scale. The product was described as a Tonka truck toy with a roller at the front to pick up litter. It was nicknamed RALPH for Remote Autmomatic Litter Pick up Hoover.

The Beat Team Work award, judged by KUKA Robotics, was won by Moreton School, Wolverhampton, who were nicknamed M2. This team made a fire alarm for deaf people which consisted of a vibrating pad which people can put under their pillow.

Wednesfield High, who are nicknamed Galacticos, won the Best Work Plan award, which was sponsored by Entrust, for their water filter product.

The last award of the day, Best Operating Model, which was judged by Laser Process, was Bristnall Hall, Oldbury, who were nicknamed STEM sisters.

They made a water filter backpack which could fit comfortably on someone's shoulders. The product turned dirty water into clean and clear water, which the team said was suitable for drinking.

Their mentor Dean Thomas, from AE Aerospace, said: "I am so proud and over the moon that they won the award.

"The idea was to create a mobile water filter system, which could be used to benefit people in a third world country."

Team member Kaitlynn McKenzie, 15, said: "The whole point was to help people who have to travel to get dirty water. I'm so proud that we won."

Dudley College principal Mr Thomas congratulated all the schools for their level of research and product development, adding: "You should all be massively proud of what you have done today."

Jamie Brassington

By Jamie Brassington
Senior Multi-Media Journalist - @JamieB_Star

Senior reporter at the Express & Star. Contact me at jamie.brassington@expressandstar.co.uk.

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