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Young inventors challenged to change the world for the better with Amazon Longitude Explorer Prize

  • 64% of secondary teachers concerned that students have fallen behind in STEM with more than half (51%) worried that their year 7 students will not make up the lost ground of 2020 before they leave secondary school.
  • The Amazon Longitude Explorer Prize, delivered by Nesta Challenges, pairs science, technology, engineering and maths curriculum with entrepreneurial life skills to encourage young people from all backgrounds to compete and turn great ideas into reality, from healthcare to sustainable transport.
  • The winning team will win £20,000 for its school or youth group, with three runner-up teams awarded £5,000 each for their school or youth groups.
  • Last year’s winners, a team of teenagers from Greenford High School in London, developed, designed and coded a smartwatch app to help people with dementia live more independently.

Embargoed until 00.01, Wednesday 11 November 2020 (London) – Nearly two-thirds (64%) of secondary school teachers in the UK are concerned that their students have fallen behind in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) as a result of Covid-19 and the associated lockdowns and teaching restrictions. Research conducted on behalf of the Amazon Longitude Explorer Prize found that more than half of secondary teachers (51%) are worried that their Year 7 students will not be able to make up the lost ground caused by this year’s disruption to their education by the time they leave secondary school.[1]

Two-thirds (66%) of secondary teachers say that Covid-19 restrictions are hampering their students’ ability to learn more practical subjects, like science and technology. A similar proportion (67%) say that practical lessons are more rewarding for their students over theory lessons, yet 57% have had to rely on theory and not practical lessons in science teaching so far this school year due to restrictions. More than half of teachers (54%) now believe the gap in understanding of science, technology, engineering and maths is beginning to grow.

The Amazon Longitude Explorer Prize (longitudeexplorer.challenges.org), delivered by Nesta Challenges, calls on young bright minds to put their passion for science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) to the test, to create and develop technological innovations to help solve some of the biggest issues of our time. Young people aged 11-16 are encouraged to apply their creativity and ingenuity in four key areas: supporting people living independently in old age, helping people lead healthier lives, tackling climate change and pollution, and helping people stay better connected.

Now in its fourth year, and supported by Amazon for the first time, the Longitude Explorer Prize pairs classroom STEM learning with valuable entrepreneurial skills to help young innovators make their great ideas a reality. The Prize helps teachers easily incorporate the programme into lesson plans by providing an array of free online resources aligned with the school STEM and citizenship curriculum – adapted to the Covid-19 classroom restrictions schools currently face, including bubble teaching and remote digital learning.

Teams are asked to create solutions based on one of four prize themes:

  • Living Longer – technological solutions to support an ageing population
  • Living Healthier – technological solutions that help people live happier and healthier lives
  • Living Greener – technological solutions that tackle pollution and climate change; and
  • Living Together – technological solutions that help people stay better connected in a way that is easy, safe and environmentally friendly as well as solutions to deliver more sustainable transport.

Applications open today and will close at 5pm on 12 February 2021. Entry is free and is open to teams of between two and five young people from schools and youth groups across the UK. The top 40 teams will be selected for the final round early next summer (2021), where Amazon will provide expert mentoring on topics ranging from data analytics, software engineering, robotics, and app development to create prototypes of their concepts to determine the winner in July 2021. The winners will be awarded £20,000 for their school or youth group, and three teams of runners up will be awarded £5,000 each for their school or youth group.

Maddy Kavanagh, Programme Manager, Nesta Challenges said:
“2020 has been one of the most difficult periods for teachers and young people alike. Schools are working hard to ensure students are not left at a disadvantage because of lockdown, and youth groups continue to provide vital extra-curricular services and support. Teachers are worried that the events of this year will have a lasting impact for the education of their students, with two-thirds concerned that science and technology education is falling behind, particularly because of the limits on practical lessons. Amazon Longitude Explorer Prize teaches young people entrepreneurial life skills and supports their development and confidence. Participants get to experience first-hand what it takes to create bright ideas and turn them into products and solutions that overcome great societal challenges. The prize supports teachers and youth leaders in bringing the STEM curriculum to life, particularly when classroom conditions are challenging, while giving young people ownership over their learning and personal development.”

Lauren Kisser, Director at Amazon’s Development Centre in Cambridge, said:

“There is a greater need for STEM skills than ever before as technology continues to transform careers, industries and every sector of our economy. We’ve teamed up with Nesta Challenges for the Amazon Longitude Explorer Prize to motivate the next generation to consider these types of careers and create a challenge for them to test their skills, ideas and ingenuity by addressing real-world challenges. The prize forms part of Amazon Future Engineer, our comprehensive childhood-to-career programme to inspire, educate and enable children and young adults from lower-income backgrounds to try computer science and engineering. I’m looking forward to seeing the creative, exciting projects the teams develop and supporting the finalists with mentoring from colleagues at Amazon.” 

Supritha Rao, Computer Science Teacher, Greenford High School – supervising teacher of the 2020 winners – said:
“The prize is a real eye-opener for students. It takes them beyond text books, beyond the classroom, to get a taste for life outside school and in industry. It encourages them to push themselves and take responsibility for their learning. The team developed such resilience, overcoming the obstacles they faced developing their app, solving problems and of course contending with remote digital working through lockdown. Our industry mentor was an excellent coach who brought the very best out of the girls, guiding them to make decisions for themselves – something so valuable for teenagers to learn.”

The Amazon Longitude Explorer Prize aims to reach students across the UK and address the lack of diversity in STEM industries by providing young people from all backgrounds with an introduction to the possibilities of entrepreneurship in STEM and becoming the disruptors of the future. According to a report from EngineeringUK earlier this year, only 12% of engineers in the UK are women and, according to the Intellectual Property Office, fewer than 13% of patents are made by women. More than half (55%) of entrants to the 2020 Longitude Explorer Prize were girls.

Last year’s prize saw more than 800 young people compete in teams from across the UK. Ideas ranged from robotic fish that remove plastic from the ocean, drones that enable Wi-Fi access in disaster zones, secure AI-enabled rovers that deliver medicines to people who are unable to leave their homes, and map apps to help wheelchair users navigate level routes. The winners, a team of five teenagers from Greenford High School in West London, developed, designed and coded a smartwatch app called ‘Tomadachi’, to support people with dementia to live more independently. The app included features to help people find their way home if lost, an activity reminder tool and an easy-to-use interactive mood tracker – all linked to a secure accompanying app on their carer’s device.

This year, supporting STEM learning is vital, with structured and inspiring experiences that can be delivered in the classroom and online. Following the 2020 prize, which concluded in July, 93% of the finalists said they would now like to pursue a career in STEM. 98% of 2020 finalists were inspired to pursue entrepreneurialism. 91% of young people taking part in the 2020 prize said they learned new remote working skills as a result. 100% of teachers and youth leaders who entered a team in 2020 said they would enter a team in the future.

The 2020 prize moved online with remote mentoring and workshops as the country entered lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Teachers and youth leaders continued to engage and excite the young teams with all of the resources and support they needed, including access to technology for digitally excluded students and offline resources for all participants. That same support will continue for the 2021 prize.

Similarly, with many schools closed due to Covid-19 earlier this year, Amazon launched a free virtual coding programme to help build computer science skills for students learning at home. The company also partnered with universities and educational resource developers to launch Maths4All, an online storefront providing free, curriculum-linked primary maths resources.

The Amazon Longitude Explorer Prize is free to enter and take part in. Nesta Challenges provides resources, guidance and – for the 40 finalist teams – mentoring, hardware and tailored workshops all aligned to school curriculums. Teams must comprise 2-5 young people aged 11-16. Schools and youth groups are encouraged to enter multiple teams in the prize.

The deadline for entries is Friday 12 February, 5pm. To find out more and apply, visit http://longitudeexplorer.challenges.org


[1] Opinium surveyed a sample of 500 secondary school teachers in the United Kingdom across all regions, 22 – 28October 2020.

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