Blundell's School crowned winner of the bp Ultimate STEM Challenge 2019

Young scientists from Blundell’s School win national STEM competition

Young scientists from Blundell’s School win national STEM competition with their invention of a device designed for coffee machines that measures any size of cups, cutting down on plastic pollution and one use cups.

Two students from Blundell’s School near Tiverton in East Devon have won the bp Ultimate STEM Challenge at an event held at the Science Museum in London.

Sophia Rochfort and Freya Gillard were praised by the judges for their innovative scientific thinking, excellent presentation skills and passion for technology and engineering.

STEM education integrates science, technology, engineering and mathematics and helps students gain a better understanding of how important these subjects are for industry and for their futures.

Now in its fifth year, the bp Ultimate STEM Challenge invites students aged 11-14 to put their science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills to the test by developing a solution to a real-world problem. The bp Ultimate STEM Challenge aims to engage young people with new challenges that highlight the benefit of STEM study and the array of careers available in STEM.

bp, as a long-term supporter of STEM, encourages the vision that all young people in the UK should receive a world-leading STEM education, which allows student creativity through experiments and engineering.

This year’s competition theme was to create an innovative design solution for an everyday problem.

Finalists and judges

On the day, the 11 finalist teams from 10 secondary schools presented their work to an expert judging panel as part of a bp Ultimate STEM Challenge Science Fair. The judging panel consisted of leading scientists and engineers including Bill Hedges, Chief Engineer at bp, Kerry Baker, Strategic Initiatives Lead at STEM Learning, Hilary Leevers, CEO of Engineering UK and Roger Highfield, Director of Science at the Science Museum.

The winning project was a measuring device for coffee machines that checks the cup size before pouring, which makes it suitable for any cup, cutting down on plastic pollution and one use cups. The team won £1000 to spend on science equipment or field trips, as well as Science Museum goodies.

Three student teams were also rewarded for their innovative thinking and creativity. Bredon Hill Academy and Walton Priory Middle School won the ‘Highly Commended’ awards, while Colyton Grammar School were awarded ‘Best Stand’. All the finalist teams received a prize bag of Science Museum goodies and a bronze CREST award.

Freya Gillard, part of the school’s winning team, said:

“We’re both very pleased to have won! We can’t believe it! We’re so excited to tell the school when we get back.”

The best part of our experience was designing and building the prototype - it was a lot of fun! We also loved presenting today and meeting all the other finalists.”

Dr Attila Teiermayer, Computer Science teacher at Blundell’s School, said: 

“Both the team and the school have worked really hard, so winning today is a fantastic reward for everybody’s effort. All the students here today deserve a lot of credit for their enthusiasm, innovation and teamwork.

Giving these students the chance to present their ideas, and bring them face-to-face with leading engineers and scientists as positive role models, has given them a truly memorable experience.”

USC 2019 winners and judges 

Ian Duffy, Head of UK communications and community development for bp, said:

“The creativity and enthusiasm that students bring to the bp Ultimate STEM Challenge every year is truly inspiring, and that has been particularly true at this year’s final. Our long-term ambition has been to address the STEM skills gap through targeted investment at all levels of education, so it’s a pleasure to be at the final today, celebrating the achievements of these inspirational young people from schools around the country.

By showing students how engineers and scientists make a difference to the world through solutions to everyday problems, we can encourage more young people to pursue STEM studies now and in the future.”

Kerry Baker, Strategic Initiatives Lead at STEM Learning, said:

“It has been an absolute pleasure to be a judge at today’s event – not only in viewing the impressive work the groups have produced but also to meet such enthusiastic and interesting young people with a love of STEM. Engagement with activities such as this, led by strong STEM companies, supported by STEM Ambassadors and often delivered in STEM Clubs enables young people to experience and understand the reality and importance of STEM to our lives, now and in the future, and inspire them to consider STEM routes for their future jobs and careers.”

Roger Highfield, Science Director at the Science Museum said:

“It has been a huge honour to welcome all the budding scientists, engineers and innovators to the Science Museum today. I've been really impressed by the projects and prototypes created by these schoolchildren for the bp Ultimate STEM Challenge, and it was really difficult to select a winner from such a range of inspiring projects. Congratulations to all the finalists, who showed huge energy, ingenuity and enthusiasm when they reimagined solutions to real life problems. It's inspiring to see so many young people fired up by STEM, since our future economy, quality of life and prosperity are so dependent on innovation."

Winning team from Blundell's School

“We’re both very pleased to have won! We can’t believe it! We’re so excited to tell the school when we get back.”

Freya Gillard, part of the school’s winning team

The winning presentation