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Young people showcase their climate action through STEM innovation

With #COP26 just around the corner, the world’s focus is on sustainability and the environmental crisis faced by the most vulnerable continent impacted by climate change.

The BIEA 2021 International STEM Competition for young people incorporated UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, teams were challenged to investigate the plastic pollution crisis and develop sustainable food packaging both on a local and international level. Budding scientists aged under 21 showed great enthusiasm to take climate action and make a positive impact in their communities.

Competition finalists from 13 countries, including the UK, UAE, China, India, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Indonesia, Malaysia, Bulgaria, Italy, Poland and Azerbaijan, all delivering exceptional presentations to the judges, enlightening the panel with what’s happening in their regions.

No less than 40 innovative packaging materials were developed including corn, orange peels, onion husks, durian, algae films, beeswax, corn-starch, glass wool and many more. Many designs were made into prototypes with well-conducted experiments to test the design potential, including insulation, fragility, flexibility and temperature tolerance etc. Dr Alex Holmes, Head of STEM at BIEA was impressed: “It’s incredible that these youngsters some aged under 10 have come up with these designs and able to explain the development process clearly to real scientists.”

Lead judge Peter Gallivan from the Royal Institution was impressed by the entries, ‘It has been a privilege spending time talking to young people all across the world about their ideas to help save the planet. The climate crisis is one of the greatest scientific challenges faced by humanity, and so it is inspiring to see the passion, enthusiasm and creativity shown by all the teams entering this year’s BIEA STEM Competition. The future will I am sure be a much greener place with some of these young people in charge!’

The Grand Prize was won by a team of three from Sin Min School in Malaysia, Team Curious developed sustainable packaging prototypes including an edible sandwich wrap made with corn starch film and an agar bottle. Loh Ken Yaw, team member reflected on his journey ‘Doing this competition has really made me realise the climate crisis we are in now. Now I want to refine our prototypes and see if they can be made into real-life solutions for our planet.’

Grand Prize Winner of BIEA 2021 STEM Competition

The same sentiment is shared by Rising Star Award winner Team Kocokanya of Brookhouse School in Nairobi, the team’s designs included an unusual plant calabash container for storing dry foods and bee’s wax cloth bag for wrapping sandwiches.

Teen climate activist Tiffany Koome voiced her thoughts on climate change, ‘The earth is what we have in common, only if we make conscious changes to our lifestyles, could we combat climate change and single-use plastic pollution we have in Kenya.’


(Alternative food packaging ideas from Kenya youngsters)

The UK teams did well in the competition, with 17 years old Arabella Eales from LEHS in London taking the Chairman’s Award, an aspiring material scientist created a packaging box using eco cellophane and homemade biodegradable glues. Speaking of her experience, ‘doing the project has made me even more determined to pursue a career in science!’

Team Quadrifolium from Tonbridge Grammar School wowed the judges with their picnic blank made using crisps packaging. Best girlfriends – Sree, Sanjana, Soha and Aditi took inspiration from their Asian cultural heritage, developed their prototypes based on Seaweed and Sugar cane bagasse. During their research, they were shocked that only 4% of plastic is recycled in Kent and they are now working in school to raise awareness of plastic packaging issues among students and their families.

David Hanson, BIEA’s STEM Chairman, commented on the young students’ performance as ‘showing a level of great maturity and consideration to the current ecological issue facing the world’.

The research indicates, 80% of future jobs will involve science and maths. It’s therefore ever more important and urgent for young people to build up their Science Capital. With the international STEM competition at the heart of the BIEA STEM programmes, BIEA has been working in partnership in local regions to develop initiatives that enthuse and engage youngsters in STEM learning, secure their knowledge in critical STEM skills and take on social responsibility.

To sign up for future BIEA STEM events – BIEA STEM Competition Registration

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