Inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers

At a recent BP STEM event, 84 pupils from nine schools from Surrey designed and built model oil platforms, using a variety of material including straws, plastic cups and napkins, with the aim of being crowned the 2017 Young Scientist Day Champions

For the past ten years BP and the Next Generation Challenge Committee (NGCC), a team of BP’s Upstream graduates have been inspiring and teaching the younger generation about STEM though volunteering and events such as Careers Awareness Week and Young Scientist Day.

This year’s flagship event, the Young Scientist Day, saw 14 teams of 13-14 year olds from local schools compete in a unique challenge. The youngsters were tasked with a technical challenge to design & build oil platforms using core business insight in an attempt to win the coveted prize of Young Scientist Day champion.

The aim of the day is to teach the teenagers about BP and the energy industry, whilst also helping them to develop their creativity, problem solving skills and basic business knowledge. The graduates and interns that supported the event also develop their communication skills through mentoring and they have the opportunity to have fun inspiring school pupils with the wealth of knowledge that a career in STEM subjects can bring.

“The challenge was engaging and fun. I particular enjoyed competing against other schools and working together in a team.”
Dev Gayal, Student

The challenge

“I was very impressed with how creative and varied the students' design were. It was great to see how well all the teams worked together and how both students' and volunteers alike seemed to enjoy the day.”
Emilie Lunddahl, NGCC
Each of the teams were assigned a BP graduate or intern as a mentor during the event. They had not seen the challenge brief before arriving at BP’s International Centre for Business and Technology (ICBT) in Sunbury for the event to ensure that no team was given a head-start. The objective of the challenge was for each team to generate as much profit as possible by constructing and selling miniature offshore platforms, while minimising the material costs required for construction by optimising their design.

Teams were briefed by their mentors on the Capital Value Process, BP's project management process used to execute a project. The teams then had to develop a platform design in line with set criteria and build up to three platforms using the range of high performance materials available for them to purchase: straws, plastic cups, napkins, card and wooden stirrers.

Each constructed platform was tested by members of the NGCC, Basel Razouk, subsea engineer graduate, David Smith, applied geophysics graduate and Emilie Lunddahl, process engineer graduate. They tested against the original design criteria and awarded a value based on its performance. Rigorous tests were conducted to assess the platform size, strength and stability. Each team received a value of $1M for every cm2 of platform surface area, $100M for being able to hold a table tennis ball on the top without it rolling off, $100M for holding the weight of one 500ml water bottle, $200M for holding the weight of two bottles, $350M for three and $500M for four and finally $100M for a height of 12cm, $200M for 16cm and $400M for 20cm.

The final score was the difference between the value of their completed platform and the cost of the construction materials.

“I enjoyed building the structure as it allowed my team to apply our knowledge of construction.”
Luca Parnham, Student

The event was a huge success with all teams thoroughly enjoying the challenge and creating a variety of innovative platform designs. Some teams opted to create two low performance, cost effective platforms whilst other teams chose to construct a single, high performance platform.

The winners

Congratulations to Thamesmead School in Shepperton who were awarded the title of 2017 Young Scientist Day Champions by achieving the near possible goal of low cost and high performance through a combination of inventive designs and a shrewd procurement strategy.

Congratulations also go to the runner up Reading School and Matthew Arnold School, who were awarded a prize for the lowest cost design.

Well done to everyone that entered the competition. BP look forward to welcoming the next set of budding engineers in Summer 2018. 

The winning team from Thamesmead School in Shepperton

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