RS Components has revealed the winners of its STEM Extraordinary Engineering Challenge, which tasked primary and secondary schoolchildren across the UK with designing an engineering solution to meet a current global challenge, such as poverty and hunger, pollution or climate change.
In the 7-11 age category, the winner is eight-year-old Chloe Hall with her design ‘The Crusher’, a solar-powered robot that scoops up and crushes plastic waste found on the surface of the ocean due to human pollution. Sensors ensure that no ocean creatures are accidentally captured in the process, and a GPS tracker monitors when the robot is full and needs to be retrieved and emptied. Made from stainless steel, the device’s parts are disguised as petals to give the impression of a giant flower floating in the water.
“Chloe’s flower power design was very well thought out and creative,” commented Laura Giddings, STEM Education Manager at RS. The ‘petals’ collapse into the middle and crush the waste and store it below, then retract to continue to gather waste, which is both practical and aesthetically pleasing.”
Chloe said: “I wanted to do something about the plastic in the oceans that is hurting all the animals living there. I chose a flower pattern because the sea creatures would swim round it, and it would look nice in the ocean. I got the idea of crushing the plastic to make sure I could fit lots in and so I called it ‘The Crusher’. I am really happy that I won the competition!"
In the 12-16 category, the winner is Ashwin Sridhar, 15, whose ‘RetroMate AI’ was created to support the elderly and their carers; to improve their quality of life, provide safety and security, and allow them to communicate and stay connected. This sophisticated AI-powered device, which replicates the look of the traditional ‘wireless’ radio, includes music-based memory triggers, facial recognition to protect against unwanted visitors, and speech API that enables seamless communication and provides the ability to detect scam calls. The device also provides hazard detection, object recognition, and autonomous pill dispensation, while algorithm audits and encryption ensure reliability and security. There is an app to facilitate remote use.
James Howarth, head of Education Strategy at RS, commented: “The strength of Ashwin’s entry is phenomenal. With extensive background research, explanation of artificial intelligence applications, and solving a problem suffered worldwide using technology available day-to-day, Ashwin has shown that he is a true engineering entrepreneur of the future.”
Ashwin added: “I am excited to have won this competition and become one of the amazing ‘Extraordineers. This competition helped foster my creative skills and design a product that could make a difference to people’s lives."
Also, in the 12-16 age category, 13-year-old Rose Hazel has been highly commended for her design ‘Debby’, a wearable ‘talking’ AI device designed to improve mental wellbeing. Intended to be worn discreetly around the wrist, and created from eco-friendly materials, the device's voice options can be set to the preferred gender, age, language, or even to a favourite celebrity. The style of the wristband can be customised by the user and can optionally link up to a smartphone or other intelligent virtual assistants such as Amazon Alexa.
James Howarth, head of Education Strategy at RS, said: “The entries in the 12-16 category were particularly strong. We were so impressed by Rose’s design, and its potential value to those living with mental health problems, that we didn’t want it to go unrewarded.”
Rose commented: “I heard about the competition through my school and felt it would be a fun and exciting way to share my ideas. I feel so shocked and happy in hearing that I have received a reward for highly commended. I didn’t think that I would get anywhere in this competition and I think that people should try different things and challenge themselves.”