Fruit waste jewellery, a playground for stressed pigs and extendable Dr Martens shortlisted for V&A national schools challenge

Graphic Gathering 2.10.2018

Ten projects put forward by teams of 11-14-year-olds from schools across England from Middlesbrough to Woking, have been shortlisted for the inaugural V&A Innovate National Schools Challenge. Tasked with creating a solution for a real-world issue, pegged to themes inspired by the V&A’s exhibitions programme, the wide scope of entries submitted range from solutions for tackling homelessness, and food waste to women’s safety. 

The entries were shortlisted by a leading industry judging panel including chef and Masterchef judge Monica Galetti; fashion designer Phoebe English; COO of Brompton Bikes Paul Williams; Teacher of Product Design at Monk’s Walk School in Hertfordshire, James Singler; and V&A Director of Learning and National Programmes, Helen Charman. The judging panel will also choose the winning team as part of a ‘Dragons Den’ style pitching and awards day on 2 March 2020. 

The judging panel’s expertise across the fashion, food and travel industries reflects the three themes for this year’s challenge. The first theme Go, asks how new approaches to design can support the movement of people, things and ideas. The second, Eat, asks for ideas on sustainable eating and widening access to affordable and healthy food. The third, Wear, asks how technology might be harnessed to transform the future of fashion. 

Dr Helen Charman, Director of Learning and National Programmes, said: “The V&A launched V&A Innovate to create meaningful resources for teachers rooted in industry, to inspire students in the incredible breadth of D&T as a subject and career pathway and to nurture their creative talents. We’re thrilled that V&A Innovate has reached over 3,000 students across the country in its inaugural year, with an extraordinary quality of projects submitted – we very much look forward to meeting the finalists in person in the coming weeks as part of the pitching and awards day.” 

The projects shortlisted for the inaugural V&A Innovate National Schools Challenge Award are: 

• Camden School for Girls, Camden A ‘fitbit’ style safety wristband for teenage girls with a panic button and specialised route planner that avoids potentially dangerous areas. 

• Coundon Court, Coventry A community centre with a public allotment and cookery school to promote healthy eating. 

• Darwen Aldridge Community Academy, Darwen

A padded jacket for the homeless with additional pockets for belongings, which could also act as extra insultation.  

• Harris Academy, Purley Concept designs for a playground for pigs, based on research that stressed pigs produce a poorer quality of meat. 

• Hoe Valley School, Woking (2 entries) Project one – A multi-purpose kitchen appliance to create more space for people living in smaller homes. 

Project two – A device to keep cyclists dry and encourage more people to cycle. 

• King Ecgbert School, Sheffield An environmentally friendly cycling bus.

• Northfield School & Sports College, Billingham A plastic prevention campaign connected to local shopping habits.

• Trinity School, Newbury Dehydrated jewellery made from fruit and vegetable peels to reduce food waste. 

• Wrenn School, Wellingborough An extendable school shoe, based on research at a local Dr Martens’ factory to reduce waste and tackle the affordability of school shoes

Phoebe English, fashion designer, said: “I really enjoyed seeing every single entry and was thrilled so many students approached ‘wear’ as a category. Both my parents were art teachers and I now lecture up and down the country at many different fashion universities, so I have seen first-hand how much design education has been eroded in recent years. It’s highly alarming and an initiative like V&A Innovate has never been more important – our collective imagination to re-design a new type of future has never been more urgent than it is now.”

James Singler, Teacher of Product Design, Monk’s Walk School, said: “What’s astounding is the breadth of ideas – showing insight, thought and eloquence – reminding us that we must improve how we keep people safe and lessen our impact on the earth, and that innovation evolves from inspired people, whatever their age. Judging the projects for the V&A Innovate National Schools Challenge demonstrated to me I should be keeping my food happy and wear the packaging it comes in – bonkers at a first glance but undoubtedly truly fresh ideas. We can and should all learn from their unrestrained thinking.”

The challenge forms a key part of the museum’s digital teaching resource hub, V&A Innovate. First launched in May 2019, its teaching toolkits are refreshed every year. Created with teachers and designers, the programme introduces young people to design principles used in industry and in the Design and Technology (D&T) GCSE.