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Innovative education App wins GSK Awards

Innovative activated charcoal research and music education App wins GSK UK Young Scientist & GSK UK Young Engineer of the Year Awards.

Maeve Stillman, from St Mary’s College in Derry, and Grace Lord, Brendan Miralles and Aalia Sellar from Loughborough Schools Foundation have seen off tough competition from over 1,100 entries from across the UK to be awarded the top honours of GSK UK Young Scientist of the Year and GSK UK Young Engineer of the Year at The Big Bang Fair in Birmingham on Thursday, March 14. 

The two awards are the top accolades in The Big Bang Competition – an annual competition for young people aged 11-18 in full-time education or training – designed to recognise and reward achievements in all areas of STEM, whilst promoting vital STEM skills and confidence in project-based work.Young Scientist & Young Engineer of the year awards

Winner of the GSK UK Young Scientist of the Year Award, 15-year-old Maeve Stillman from St Mary’s College in Derry, aimed to improve our understanding of how activated charcoal effects the absorption of everyday medicines including paracetamol for her winning project. The team from Loughborough, consisting of students from Loughborough High School and Loughborough Grammar School, took out the GSK UK Young Engineer of the Award category. The team’s project ‘Music Splash’, inspired by a need for better access to music education, is an app that uses machine learning to analyse music performance and provide feedback that helps the user improve. The standard of creativity in this year’s awards was exceptionally high, with other ideas including everything from aids for the visually impaired to sustainable fertilizer, and edible water bottles to a door with facial recognition.

Previous winners of the competition, which is now in its fourth year, have gone on to forge successful careers in STEM, compete at international awards and present their groundbreaking concepts on television.

The 2018 GSK UK Young Scientist of the Year, Emily Xu, represented the UK and won first place at CASTIC (China Adolescents Science and Technology Innovation Contest), and a special donated prize at EUCYS (European Union Contest for Young Scientists). Emily is now pursuing a degree in Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London and has spoken at Parliament during Tomorrow’s Engineers Week 2018 as an ambassador for young women in STEM.

This year’s winners will continue to show their ideas to the thousands of visitors to the annual Big Bang Fair at the NEC in Birmingham, which aims to inspire other young people to consider a career in STEM by showcasing the huge depth and breadth of opportunities available in the sector.

Over 500 finalists from across the country were selected to show their ideas at The Big Bang Fair where ten were then shortlisted to pitch Dragon’s Den-style to panels of VIP judges including:

  • Dallas Campbell (The Gadget Show and Bang Goes the Theory TV presenter)
  • Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon (Co-founder of STEMettes)
  • Roma Agrawal (structural engineer on The Shard, STEM promoter and TV presenter)
  • Dr Ozak Esu (IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year 2017)
  • Nikki Yates (Senior Vice President of European Mid-Sized Markets, GSK)
  • Chris Hurst (Engineering Lead for Pharmaceutical Operational Performance, GSK)

GSK has sponsored the UK Young Scientist of the Year award since 2017, as part of its work supporting STEM education throughout the UK. This year, GSK has extended its support to include the UK Young Engineer of the Year Award, to inspire future engineers and help address the UK’s annual deficit of 59,000 engineering graduates (The State of Engineering, Engineering UK).

In January 2019, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) published a report on the skills gap in the pharmaceutical industry showing that UK STEM students have increased just 16% in the last ten years, compared to 63% worldwide. As a science-led global healthcare company, GSK believes the scientists and engineers of tomorrow will help to solve the biggest global healthcare challenges and are passionate about inspiring young people to study a wide range of STEM subjects.

Nikki Yates, Senior Vice President of European Mid-Sized Markets, GSK, commented: “Seeing the incredible quality of creative thinking and STEM understanding that inspired this year’s winning entries reiterates just how vital awards like this are. They give our future STEM innovators and leaders unique opportunities to develop and showcase their talents and to inspire thousands of other young people in the process. I’m excited to see what our winners will go on to achieve.”

Daljit Kaur, Head of STEM Innovation at Loughborough Grammar School, said: “We are all so proud of our team’s achievement. It has really inspired all our students to see what is possible. Awards like this can provide a real ‘light bulb’ moment for young people. They enable them to apply their STEM skills to areas which really interest them and help them see that the STEM skills they are learning in the classroom are transferable and prized in the real world. 

The role of a teacher or, an educator is pivotal in helping to shape young minds to realise their full potential, to realise that their ideas can help shape the future.”

Hilary Leevers, Chief Executive of Engineering UK, which organises The Big Bang Competition, said: “The judges have been blown away by the quality of entries from all the finalists – not only for their brilliant new ideas but for how eloquently they spoke about them to the crowds of people at The Big Bang Fair. Huge congratulations to Maeve, Grace, Brendan and Aalia.

 It certainly bodes well for the future that the engineers, scientists and inventors of tomorrow are already producing such astute and creative project work.”             

As a result of their win, Maeve, Grace, Brendan and Aalia will all benefit from a range of exclusive mentoring and work experience opportunities, and VIP visits to top science centres with their families.


For more information about young scientist and engineer of the year click here 
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