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The British International Education Association (@BIEAeducation) has announced that entries for its international plastic pollution competition have been narrowed down into a final shortlist.

The international STEM (Science Technology Engineering Maths) competition is aimed at young people from the ages of nine to 17. It challenged individuals and teams to design a solution that could pick up plastic debris from hard to reach areas of waterways before they enter the ocean.

The BIEA has confirmed that it received an overwhelming response from young people across the globe, with entries from young scientists in over 50 countries, and that 36 teams from 14 countries have now made it through made it to the final. Finalists come from the US, UK, Bosnia, Indonesia, South Africa, Nigeria, Philippines, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, UAE, Malaysia, Thailand, India, and Hong Kong.

The UK has a strong representation with finalist teams from London, Sheffield, Brighton and Folkestone, investigating plastic pollution in River Thames and costal beaches.

40% of the entries came from girls which is a record for the competition. We hope through the competition, we will encourage more of them to take on STEM careers in the future. (Currently UK 24% of women in STEM jobs, according to the Guardian news 23 June 2020)

Standards of the finalist entries were so high that some design models could be developed into real working environment protection models and applied in real-life situations, helping to reduce ocean plastics.

The final round of judging is done online this week and judge Chris Coode, Deputy CEO of Thames 21 was very impressed by the teams, ‘The teams I met were full of inspiring young people with great ideas on how to tackle the global problem of plastic waste. They have bright futures ahead of them in STEM field and Thames21 hopes they will continue help us work towards litter free rivers and oceans for people and nature to enjoy.’

Due to the school closures caused by COVID-19, students’ learning was interrupted, but despite the challenges, many teams made the effort to continue with their project remotely.

David Hanson, BIEA STEM Chairman, said: “In the current turmoil that we are experiencing in the world, and as a response to ecological, social, demographic and economic challenges, we must look at STEM education as a tool to understand and collectively shape the society we live in.”

World-renowned science ‘guru’ Dr. Karl Kruszelnicki commented on the competition: “Save the planet for our future generation! It’s really great thing you are doing!”

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall (speaking about the project in February 2020), said: “It’s wonderful to see so many young people united in their efforts to fight one of the biggest environmental challenges we face today.”

The winners will be announced on Wednesday, 1st July and the grand prize winner will receive 1000 pounds towards their STEM education fund.

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