Students win top prizes in UK’s Science & Engineering Competition

22 March 2012
By Rachael Fergusson
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The National Science & Engineering Competition awards ceremony with (L-R) Liz Bonin, Kirtana Vallabhaneni, Greg Foot, Wasim Miah, Jessica Jones, David Willetts MP.

The National Science & Engineering Competition awards ceremony with (L-R) Liz Bonin, Kirtana Vallabhaneni, Greg Foot, Wasim Miah, Jessica Jones, David Willetts MP.

Two students were awarded the UK’s Young Engineers of the Year at this year’s National Science & Engineering Competition after creating a device that measures the intensity of foetal contractions.

The National Science & Engineering Competition Awards Ceremony was held last Friday during The Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Fair at The NEC, Birmingham.

Wasim Miah and Jessica Jones, both 17, from St David’s College in Cardiff, were named UK Young Engineers of the Year. The pair impressed with the creation of a new portable device that combines electronics and mechanics to measure the intensity of foetal contractions. The gadget called the ‘Contraction Optical Monitoring System’ provides a clear and simple indication when mothers are about to go into labour.

Kirtana Vallabhaneni, also 17, from West Kirby Grammar School, was named the UK Young Scientist of the Year for her ground-breaking work helping to identify the harmful cells that cause pancreatic cancer.

Jessica said: “This is such a massive honour. It feels so strange and I can’t believe that we’ve actually won. The competition was so fierce. I can’t believe I’m the first girl to win the UK Young Engineer of the Year; it makes the achievement all the more amazing. It would be great to see more girls enter into the field of engineering as there’s no reason why we can’t. I think it offers brilliant career opportunities.”

Eleven to 18-year-olds from across the UK were able to enter the competition by completing a project or activity in any field of science, technology, engineering or maths. The awards ceremony, hosted by Bang Goes the Theory’s Liz Bonin and Science Junkie Greg Foot, celebrated the achievements of 360 talented young finalists. Judges included Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock, Nobel Prize-winning biochemist Sir Tim Hunt, and the Science Museum's Inventor in Residence Mark Champkins.

This year’s Big Bang Fair attracted 56,000 visitors, with young people, their teachers and parents totalling 49,000 – almost doubling last year’s numbers.

Paul Jackson, Chief Executive of The Big Bang CIC, said: “It’s hard to sum up the unique quality of The Big Bang Fair. If you compared The Fair to a football stadium, we’d be behind only Old Trafford and Arsenal for capacity. To fully appreciate the size of the event and the energy that makes up the programme’s flagship event, you really have to see it for yourself. The Fair is so much more than a fun day out. It presents science and engineering in a fresh new way and inspires young people to consider careers in these varied and vital sectors. The Fair challenges out-dated perceptions about science and engineering careers, giving young people a real picture of what twenty-first century science and engineering jobs are all about – and it works.

“Early evaluation indications confirm the findings of our previous events: young people who attend The Fair are more likely to choose a career that will require a qualification in science, technology, engineering or maths and view careers in science and engineering more positively as a result of their visit. Without a doubt, the thousands of young people who come through The Fair’s doors will be our future scientists and engineers. There’s no room for complacency of course, but there is certainly cause to be proud.”

The 2013 Big Bang Fair will take place on 14 to 16 March at ExCel London. The Big Bang Near Me events take place nationwide all year round.

Further information:

Find out more about The Big Bang programme.

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