Students from Birmingham are celebrating taking home the top prize in the Big Ideas competition run by Solutions for the Planet. The award-winning social enterprise encourages young people to consider science and technical careers and engage with sustainability issues and has been supported throughout this year’s programme by its national partner Tarmac.
Held at the Palace of Westminster, the finalists presented their ideas to an audience of local MPs, business mentors, teachers and their peers.
Receiving their award from MP for Meriden Rt Hon Dame Caroline Spelman, the winning team from Hodge Hill College, Sea Savers, impressed the judging panel with their innovative idea to revolutionise the environmental credentials of their school by removing plastic from all of their catering options. This was achieved following consultation with the school’s caterers Aspens, who inspired by their vision are now rolling out a plastic-free offering in 63 schools across the UK.
As the scheme’s national partner, Tarmac delivered mentoring to participating 11-14 year olds across the country, highlighting the importance of sustainability and raising awareness of career opportunities within the construction sector, along with regional partners Arcadis and Brammer Buck and Hickman.
Dr Martyn Kenny, sustainability director at Tarmac and member of the judging panel, said: “The Big Ideas programme is an inspiring opportunity for both the participants and our mentors to think creatively and develop new skills, all while tackling some of the world’s most pressing sustainability issues.
“It’s been fantastic to see the students engaging so passionately in the key STEM [science, technology, engineering and maths] subjects and we hope that some are now considering careers in these vital areas. We would like to congratulate the winners and finalists on their achievements, as well as thank all of the thousands of students that took part this year.”
Each of the twelve teams that progressed to the National Final through regional rounds has spent the past year developing a creative Big Idea to address a specific environmental, economic or social sustainability problem. These ranged from finding ways to prevent littering in their local community, to improving access to water in developing countries or reducing the amount of plastic found in the world’s oceans.
Jen Baughan, CEO, Solutions for the Planet, said: “This year's programme has given the young people amazing opportunities to explore STEM subjects through independent learning and their own creative thinking.
“The confidence that the young people have developed and their belief in their ideas is fantastic, and it’s largely down to their dedication and commitment, and that of their teachers and our partner organisations. The students demonstrated outstanding entrepreneurship, teamwork and presentation skills that they will carry with them into their future careers.”
For more information about the Big Ideas programme, please visit www.solutionsfortheplanet.co.uk