Jump Into The Future To Inspire Your Students!

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Holly Gardner

Holly Gardner is TT Editor, as well as a Freelance Publisher. She has been working with @TeacherToolkit for over 6 years - since she published his first book in her role as Senior Commissioning Editor at Bloomsbury Publishing. Since then, she left her day job,...
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Can you inspire the next generation of scientists?

In its latest report, EngineeringUK estimates that we currently have a shortfall of 20,000 scientists and engineers a year – a huge concern, especially when it also predicts that the UK needs 1.8 million new engineers and technicians by 2025.

How can you inspire your students today?

As we move towards the Year of Engineering in 2018, what role can industry play in supporting teachers as they work to bridge this gap? Real world based project challenges like The Bright Ideas Challenge, Shell’s national STEM schools’ competition might hold the key.

The Bright Ideas Challenge, now in its third year, invites young people aged 11-14, to use their STEM skills to come up with ‘bright ideas’ to power the cities of 2050, ensuring they are vibrant, healthy and clean places to live. We caught up with chemistry teacher and last year’s winner for Scotland, Dr. Zoe Moncrieff at Inveralmond High School to find out how the challenge inspired her students (and to see if she has any tips for winning one of the £45,000 worth of prizes on offer!)

1. What made The Bright Ideas Challenge appealing to your school?

We knew our students would respond well to the fact that the challenge is rooted in a real-world issue. The challenge helped bring STEM theory to life and showed our students that their STEM skills can be used to help create a brighter future. That really inspired them and even captured the imagination of students that don’t see themselves as scientists.

2. What was your winning team’s bright idea?

Our team’s idea was simple, workable and based on sound research – all of which I think helped us stand out. With oceans covering 70% of the Earth’s surface, students identified salt water as an abundant source of potential future energy and came up with the idea of salt water powered vehicles that would not only be pollutant free, but cheap to run. An inspired idea we believe …

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3. Was the challenge time-consuming to deliver?

Not at all. The resources that come with the pack are really comprehensive, offer step-by-step instructions and are all curriculum linked so we were able to incorporate the challenge into lesson time and homework. There are even ‘ready to go’ warm up exercises and inspiring videos to get your students’ imaginations fired up. 

4. What were the biggest benefits of entering?

The fact that The Bright Ideas Challenge put a real emphasis on how students work together to develop their bright idea was great. Our students developed valuable wider skills such as creativity, communication, problem solving, resilience and teamwork, while completing the competition.

The challenge helped us show our students that STEM learning can lead to a variety of pathways and isn’t confined to the science lab. This really captured the students’ imaginations and the £1,500 we won made a huge difference to school. We invested the cash to purchase an incubator for a microbe project, a Go-Pro camera to video experiments and even bought a rocket launcher!


Entries to The Bright Ideas Challenge close at 5pm on April 27, 2018*. Go to www.shell.co.uk/brightideaschallenge to find free curriculum linked resources, inspiration from previous entrants and tips on creating winning entries.

*Terms and conditions apply.

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