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The Ultimate STEM Challenge

Each year, bp, the Science Museum Group and STEM Learning launch a nationwide competition to boost STEM engagement across schools
Ultimate STEM challenge winners 2018

bp’s Ultimate STEM Challenge has been designed to help young people develop their creativity, problem-solving skills and employability by tackling real-world challenges. Teams of two to four students aged 11 to 14, from across the UK, can enter the competition and win some fantastic prizes, including an invitation to a celebratory event at the Science Museum, £1,000 for their school and Science Museum goodies.


We live in a world of rapid change where developments in technology can transform societies, economies and industries. History tells us that companies that do not anticipate or adapt to new technologies struggle to survive. On the other hand, companies with leading technologies are often the most competitive and successful. Encouraging the engineers and scientists of the future is crucial for the continued success of many of the UK’s key industries.


More than 500 students from 250 teams took part in this year’s competition which challenged them to create an innovative design solution for an everyday problem. There were some fantastic ideas from students across the country; one team designed a rubber shoe sole that helps a deaf person to feel music through the vibrations in their shoe;  another team created an auto-tuner for a flute, whilst another designed a watch that doubled up as an asthma inhaler.   


The challenges could be completed at a STEM club, in class or as an independent project. With creativity and innovation at the heart of the challenges even those students who may not naturally gravitate towards science will be inspired. Teachers also have the opportunity to request support from a STEM Ambassador. Teams entering the Ultimate STEM Challenge were able to accredit their work using CREST awards from the British Science Association.


We want every young person, regardless of their background, to benefit from the opportunities that a STEM education and career can provide.Ian Duffy,head of UK communications and community development for bp


This year's Ultimate STEM Challenge was won by two young scientists from Blundell’s School, in Devon,  who produced a device designed for coffee machines that measures the size of cup before vending the correct sized drink. By allowing any cup to be used the team hope this will cut down on plastic pollution by reducing the need for single-use cups.


The bp Ultimate STEM Challenge 2020 will be launched this Summer. For guidance on how to take part register at bp.com/bpes and you will receive the most up to date information via email.

The competition has been developed based on insights from the ground-breaking ‘Enterprising Science’ research which shows that the more science capital (science-related qualifications, interest, literacy and social contacts) a young person has, the more likely they are to pursue a STEM career.


The Ultimate STEM Challenge aims to give young people the opportunity to see themselves as scientists and engineers of the future and encourage them to continue studying STEM subjects and pursue STEM careers.


Ian Duffy, head of communications and community development for bp in the UK, said: “We want every young person, regardless of their background, to benefit from the opportunities that a STEM education and career can provide.

"We are learning from our Enterprising Science research that an effective way to build science capital and foster STEM learning among young people is to show how science is meaningful and relevant to their lives.  The Ultimate STEM Challenge does this by showing students how real-world applications flow from classroom science and maths."