Science competition seeks next-generation innovators

The Tenterden Schools Trust team that were named overall Bright Spark Awards winners in 2019

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The judges of a school-science competition have spoken of its ability to inspire a new generation of inventers and innovators.

The 2020 Bright Spark Awards were officially launched at Discovery Park in Sandwich last month.

The competition encourages teams of young people to use skills in science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) subjects in practical projects.

Shortlisted teams will present their projects to the judges at a Dragons’ Den-style awards event at Discovery Park in July.

And teams that submit entries by Monday March 2 will be entered into a draw to win free tickets to science festival New Scientist Live. They will also be eligible for school visits by competition dragons, who will outline what they are looking for in winning projects and offer advice about how ideas can be developed and refined.

The awards are organised by the KM Charity Team and open to primary and secondary schools across the south-east. There are three categories ‑ innovation, investigation and invention – and a top prize of £500 for the overall champions.

Schools can enter projects either developed specially for the competition or prepared through school partnerships, science clubs or course work and curricular activities.

The competition judging organisations are Pfizer Research and Development Ltd, housing association Golding Homes, Discovery Park, Kent Renewable Energy, BAE Systems and tech firms ITL, Global Associates and Megger.

Bright Spark Awards judges launch the 2020 edition of the school-science competition at Discovery Park

Colin Dobson of Kent Renewable Energy emphasised that projects didn’t need to be complex to impress the dragons.

He said: “The Bright Spark Awards are all about getting children involved in science and the environment and Stem subjects.

“Last year, we had some really interesting, innovative ideas – from ones that cost nothing to do, to ones that were quite technology-based and expensive. Anyone can get involved with this.”

Ian Hoare of BAE Systems stressed the competition’s ability to get pupils to apply their classroom learning to practical, everyday issues.

He said: “We see the Bright Spark Awards as a great opportunity for young people to present their projects that they’re working on in their schools.

“As a judge it’s really great to see all of these brilliant ideas where people are presenting solutions to real-life problems in the world and showing all of the good work that they’re putting in.”

And Robert Crook of Pfizer Research and Development Ltd said the awards could go some way towards addressing looming skills shortages for UK businesses and industries.

He said: “There are real skills gaps coming up for us in the UK. It’s really important that we’ve got children coming through who hopefully can fill them.”

Last year, the £500 top Bright Spark prize went to a collaborative project involving eight pupils from the Tenterden Schools Trust.

The Preserving Diversity Project aimed to boost wildlife and the environment at the trust’s different schools and in Tenterden town centre.

The deadline for submitting entries is May 29. Find out more at Kmcharityteam.co.uk/brightspark.

Alternatively, contact event coordinator Hannah Hawksworth at hhawksworth@thekmgroup.co.uk or on 0844 264 0291.

And watch a video in which the judges talk about the competition here:

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