STEM writing competition impresses experts

On Tuesday 10 March, finalists of the 2020 #700STEMChallenge gathered in the Longton Hall to discover where they had placed in this year’s competition. Fourteen schools from across the UK were represented with entries in the Under 14, Under 16 and Under 18 age groups, divided into Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths categories.

After having just under 80 essays submitted our judges worked hard to shortlist these to a selection of 31 finalists and those who were able to join us, along with their families and friends, waited in eager anticipation as each guest judge took to the stage to announce their awards. Before they announced their chosen top three in each category they gave a short presentation. All four discussed their current jobs as well as their career path to date and gave some words of advice to the audience, as well as sharing their thoughts on the essays.

Firstly we heard from Maths judge, Clare Tomkins, Student Recruitment Supervising Associate at Ernst & Young, via video link as she was unable to join us physically. Clare spoke of her time in the Student Recruitment team at EY, looking after branding and attraction across London, the South West and South East, as well as her keen advocacy for apprenticeships and STEM careers, including discussing the future of work including the impact of disruptive technologies such as AI and Robotic Process Automation. She was named one of the top 100 Tech Women in the UK in 2018 and thoroughly enjoyed reading the essays, which made her think about how she applies maths in everyday life and really showed the students’ passion for STEM.

Our Science judge, Rachael Levinson, a Research Consultant at Hawkins Wright, spoke of her path from a degree in Immunology through financial journalism to the world of bioenergy where she now works for a forest products consultancy firm focussing on biomass – the UK’s largest source of renewable energy – providing market intelligence and analytical services for clients including power generators, financial institutions and biomass producers. She reminded everyone that sometimes the path to where you want to be goes through unforeseen areas but keep persevering and you will get where you want to go.

Sigourney Bell had the task of judging our Engineering category. A PhD student at University of Cambridge & Sydenham High School alumna, she spoke passionately about her research, sponsored by Cancer Research UK, into developing novel therapeutics for rare paediatric brain tumours. She left Sydenham High School in 2009 after completing A Levels in Biology, Chemistry and Physics and then gained her undergraduate degree from the University of Leeds in Human Physiology, including a year in industry. She explained how she got to where she is today – and her surprise at being there! She encouraged all the participants to follow their dreams and don’t think anything is out of reach as you can be whatever you want to be with hard work and dedication.

Our final judge, Matthew Pike, Senior First Officer at British Airways, was responsible for the Technology category. He graduated from CTC Aviation (now L3) in 2009 having completed his training in Bournemouth and Hamilton, New Zealand. He joined BA in 2014 having previously flown for easyJet for 4 years, living and working in Paris for two of these. His mother was previously Head of Science at Sydenham High School so he felt a strong connection to the school and was delighted to be asked to judge. He talked about his recent moved to long haul to fly the newest addition to BA’s fleet, the Airbus A350 aircraft, and suggested that anyone thinking about becoming a pilot should go for it. It is still a male dominated industry but the numbers of female pilots in on the rise.

Without exception, the judges found the decisions very difficult and were so impressed by the standard of the entries.

Please find the final magazine with all of the finalists’ entries here: STEM Magazine – 2020.

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