River Cleanup - Amazon Longitude Explorer Prize

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Young entrepreneurs into national final of 'tech for good' innovation prize

A sea-cleaning robot sphere, a hand sanitiser-dispensing phone case and an app to tackle period poverty are some of the entries in running to win a £20,000 prize for young innovators and entrepreneurs.

The Amazon Longitude Explorer Prize, delivered by Nesta Challenges, has this week unveiled a finalist shortlist of 40 projects from teams of 11-16 year olds who will be supported to develop prototypes and business proposals for their concepts. The prize pairs STEM knowledge with new entrepreneurial skills and calls on young people to develop innovative ‘tech for good’ solutions to help solve society’s biggest issues.

The sea-cleaning robot sphere called Bioclear from students at Wimbledon High School detects and removes microplastics with infrared sensors. Wirral Grammar School for Girls’ Sanasniper is a hand sanitiser-dispensing and infrared thermometer phone case that reminds the user to wash their hands and take their temperature regularly. And Northern Ireland’s Dalriada School’s Go With The Flow app tackles period poverty and its link with female participation in sport and exercise by offering free monthly hygiene packs alongside motivation and fitness goals, and mental health tips.

Other game-changing ideas include a device that harvests kinetic energy every time a door is opened and closed to feed into the electricity grid; a carbon footprint-measuring app to help people make sustainable shopping decisions easily, and; a platform that uses AI to teach people sign language.

The prize received more than 150 entries this year from over 500 young people across the UK. The 40 finalists projects have been selected by a panel of expert judges including Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, President of techUK, Lauren Kisser, Director at Amazon’s Development Centre in Cambridge and DeepMind’s Obum Ekeke, Global Lead for University Relations & Education Partnerships.

The finalist teams will now be connected to an expert mentor from Amazon and other industry-leading organisations. They will mentor teams on topics such as business development, marketing, data analytics, software engineering, robotics, and app development, to create prototypes of their concepts to help determine the winner this July. They will all be invited to participate in an Enterprise Academy business day and will also receive one-to-one technology support from FireTech UK - the UK’s leading technology course provider for children aged 8-17.

Maddy Kavanagh, Education and Skills Programme Manager, Nesta Challenges, said: “It is a privilege to unveil the 40 inspirational teams that have been shortlisted for this year’s Amazon Longitude Explorer Prize. It has been amazing to be inundated with so many innovative entries despite the immense pressures faced by young people, teachers and youth workers alike. Schools are working extraordinarily hard to ensure students excel after lockdown, and youth groups continue to provide vital extra-curricular services and support. We are so pleased that the prize is introducing more young people to the exciting opportunities in science, technology, engineering and maths, supporting the growth of entrepreneurial life-skills, and developing their confidence at such a pivotal time. We can’t wait to see our teams develop their ideas into real-world prototypes in the next three months.”

Other shortlisted ideas include an eco-friendly water bottle that encourages the user to drink water more often; a wearable device for PTSD sufferers that uses sensors and GPS tracking to monitor behaviour and notify friends and family of episodes; a LGBTQ+ Youth app and website to connect and support those with similar experiences, through chat rooms, bots, fun enrichment activities and resources, and; a mealworm larvae filled box that breaks down non-recyclable plastic waste, using sensors to monitor for optimal decomposition conditions.

In July, the winning team will be awarded £20,000 for its school or youth group, with three teams of runners-up to be awarded £5,000 each for their school or youth group. The public will also be given the chance to choose their favourite design in the People’s Choice Award in June, the winner of which will receive £5,000 prize money for its school or youth group.

Lauren Kisser, Director at Amazon’s Development Centre in Cambridge, and prize judge said: “Supporting young people to discover a passion for - and ultimately consider future careers in - STEM is more vital than ever, and it’s fantastic to see such great engagement in the prize across the country. It’s been a joy to see what the nation’s next generation of inventors and innovators have come up with, especially under such unusual and challenging circumstances this year. We’re looking forward to getting started with the mentorship programme and seeing the finalists’ ideas come to life.”

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Andrew McKay .

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