The Sign Champions - Winner of the Amazon Longitude Explorer Prize

Member Article

Teen entrepreneurs win £20,000 for AI-enabled sign language app

A team of teenage entrepreneurs from St Paul’s School for Girls in London has triumphed over hundreds of students from across the UK to be named champions of the Amazon Longitude Explorer Prize 2021, winning £20,000 thanks to their two-way AI-enabled British Sign Language (BSL) translator - BSL: Educate-2-Translate.

The prize challenges young, innovative minds to design and develop technological solutions to the big issues of our time that deliver social good, building prototypes and presenting a strong business case to impress the judges.

Radhika Iyer, Vivien Wu, Megan Gill, and Olympia Andipa, the members of The Sign Champions, were named winners of the national competition at a virtual awards ceremony.

Inspired by the experience of their friend who is deaf the team designed, developed and coded BSL: Educate-2-Translate to interpret BSL and translate it into spoken English, and likewise translate spoken English into BSL videos.

The team explained: “Our friend Amy is deaf, as are 11 million other people in the UK. Although she can communicate with her close friends and family using sign language, she finds it difficult to perform daily tasks such as ordering food at a restaurant or going for a job interview - in fact the employment gap between deaf people and the general population is 14% as a result of the lack of access when it comes to BSL. Our app, BSL: Educate-2-Translate, aims to make learning and using sign language more accessible to bring, often distant, communities together”.

The expert judging panel, which included Lauren Kisser - Director of Amazon’s Development Centre in Cambridge - and president of techUK, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, commended BSL: Educate-2-Translate as “a cutting-edge project, with impressive teamwork. The team demonstrated an advanced use of technology and AI, creating a complex prototype that is simple to use.” The judging panel also commented that the app shows great potential with large investors and were impressed by the young team’s business plan.

Responding to winning, team member Olympia Andipa said: “We’ve been working on the project for such a long time, it’s such a surprise to have won, especially when there were so many other exciting projects. We’re over the moon!”

Looking forward to developing BSL: Educate-2-Translate further, team member Radhika Iyer said: “We’d like to develop the prototype further. One of the challenges we have faced is the lack of a BSL video database, and creating and implementing that is something we think the prize money could go towards. Ultimately, we would like to see the app come to market.”

Three runners up also secured £5,000 each for their schools.

Plasticivore – Insect-Powered Plastic Digester, by The Real Meal team at Liverpool Life Sciences UTC is a self-contained digester box, designed for both homes and businesses, that uses mealworm larvae to break down non-recyclable plastic waste. Using sensors, the box can be remotely monitored to ensure optimal conditions for decomposition.

Pura-Sky: Bluetooth Pollution Device by the LA Besties teams at Alderman Peel High School (Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk) is a device that can be worn as a badge or wristband that measures air pollution in the wearers vicinity and shares advice to reduce their exposure.

Rainforest DRAGEN project by the Rainforest DRAGEN team at Mendip Studio School (Radstock, Somerset) is a piece of monitoring hardware for recording environmental data in communities living in and by rainforests to promote conservation. It has a companion website for sharing the data and learnings to enable young people across the world to build their own versions. The team has worked with other young people in Borneo and Rwanda already.

In addition, thousands of votes were cast by the public to crown Bioclear by Team Elektrica from Wimbledon High School (London) the winners of the People’s Choice Award, receiving £5,000 for their school. Bioclear is a spherical robot that operates in water to detect and remove microplastics through infrared sensors, trapping them as a ferrofluid (made with oil and magnetite) to magnets in the back of the biobot, whilst allowing purified water to escape through a manta net.

Lauren Kisser, Director at Amazon’s Development Centre in Cambridge and prize judge, said: “Every entry in this year’s final has demonstrated serious ingenuity and creativity. Each team should be incredibly proud of their accomplishments and we hope that all of them have been inspired and invigorated by the experience. This prize, part of Amazon Future Engineer programme, is a great stepping stone for young people interested in engineering and computer science and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for the next generation of inventors and innovators.”

Tris Dyson, Founder and Managing Director, Nesta Challenges said: “Again and again we have been blown away by the talent and dedication of the young people taking part in the Amazon Longitude Explorer Prize. A huge congratulations and thank you to our winners, runners up and each and every young person and supporting adult that participated this year - we wish them the best of luck in the future.”

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

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