V&A Innovate National Schools Challenge shortlist announced

Learning & National Programmes
April 22, 2021

Today we announce the shortlist for the V&A Innovate National Schools Challenge – a celebration of  young people’s imaginative and inspiring design solutions, which make for a better future. V&A Innovate is our flagship national educational initiative, offering Design and Technology (D&T) teachers free, innovative and flexible classroom resources to introduce students aged 11 – 14 to key principles in design education, which are also used in industry.

As the world’s leading museum of art, design and performance, V&A Innovate is a core part of our mission to champion the place of arts education on the curriculum, and nurture the change-makers of tomorrow. We are delighted to have worked with Stephanie Sweeney – V&A Innovate Teacher of the Year Award Winner 2020, and three incredible figures from the creative industries to help judge this year’s challenge:

  • Loyle Carner – BRIT Award and Mercury Prize nominated rapper
  • Ade Adepitan MBE – Broadcaster and Paralympic Medallist
  • Roma Agrawal MBE – Structural Engineer, whose projects include London’s iconic Shard building
Left to right: Loyle Carner, Ade Adepitan © Ian Wallman, and Roma Agrawal

The programme’s themes – Home and Community – prompted an extraordinary range of socially-conscious and sustainable projects from over 200 students. Schools have had an incredibly challenging year, faced with the pressures of adapting to home learning and limited or no access to practical subject classrooms when schools reopened. The judges were incredibly impressed by the entries, particularly given the context of this year, and we are delighted to reveal the ten finalists today:

  • An accessible kitchen

Penwortham Girls High School, ​Lancashire, Year 8 – individual entry

With the standard kitchen worktop in the UK at 90cm, if you’re in a wheelchair, a standard cooker with a low oven is often unworkable. This project was shortlisted for the ingenuity of its proposed solution: a cooker with rotating hobs, sliding oven doors and safety handles.

Penwortham Girls High School, Accessible Kitchen (detail)
  • Eco-friendly toilet

Penwortham Girls High School, ​Lancashire, Year 8 – individual entry

In the UK, each flush washes down an average of nine litres, making the toilet responsible for about 30% of the total water used in a home. This project was commended by the judges for its research, which – through an iterative process – mapped out a method for using rainwater and bamboo to create an eco-friendly toilet that could convert waste into fertiliser for a greenhouse.

  • QR-code waste scanner

​King Ecgbert School, Sheffield, Year 8 – individual entry

This project considered the alarming statistic that 91% of plastic is not recycled, and that easier access to education could help narrow the gap. Praised for its research, the idea is that a self-scanner, easily stored at home, could enable the public easier access to information to help them filter recyclable items, find out information on refuse collection and store data on recycling levels, to encourage the public to increase their eco-friendly practices at home.

King Ecgbert School, QR-code Waste Scanner Project Outline (detail)
  • Waste reducing app for a fridge freezer

Trinity School, Berkshire, Year 8 – team entry

The judges liked how students at Trinity School identified the important issue of food waste, highlighting that 17% of food wasted is forgotten about in the fridge and 1/6 of the food we buy is wasted. Their design for a smart fridge freezer includes compartments with adjustable temperatures, an app to notify the user when items are about to go off, and recipe suggestions using near sell-by-date products.

  • A tree holder to encourage an eco-friendly school community

Gillotts School, Oxfordshire, Year 9 – team entry

The students at Gillotts School explored how they could bring their school community together to make it more environmentally conscious. Their design for a tree-shaped ideas holder, which invites students to add their suggestions to make their school more eco-friendly was praised for its detailed research with the school community, and their iteration, testing, design development and prototyping of the product.

  • Environment-cleaning robot

Coundon Court Secondary School, Warwickshire, Year 8 – team entry

Exploring the use of robotics as a tool for environmental clean-ups, this project was praised for its 360-degree approach to research – from context and purpose, to materials and function. This ambitious project focused its vision on plastic pollution in the oceans and highlighted opportunities for converting waste into fuel.

  • Cinema cycle community space

Hoe Valley School, Woking, Year 8 – team entry

Combining community engagement, fitness, leisure and eco-friendliness, this project was praised for the detail of its research – from a pricing strategy, to mitigating against potential accessibility issues, and its sustainability vision.

  • Productive Pollyanna

Hoe Valley School, Woking, Year 8 – team entry

The judges praised how students from Hoe Valley School wanted to help young people who have been feeling stressed and anxious during the pandemic. Their ‘Productive Pollyanna’ app design suggests ways to encourage young people to get outside, to exercise the body and mind, and includes a points and rewards system to try to encourage people to do more activities.

Hoe Valley School, Productive Pollyanna Project Outline (detail)
  • Garden scenic conveyor belt 

The Charter School, Year 8 – team entry

Exploring experiences of lockdown, outdoor space and bringing the community together, the students at Charter came up with the idea for a garden scenic conveyor belt that moves plants between gardens in a neighbourhood. The judges commended the ingenuity and creativity of this idea.

  • Scenty Mems scented jumper

The Charter School, Year 8 – team entry

The students at Charter explored solutions to grief and coping with loss, in a year which has seen families around the world lose loved ones to Covid-19. Their solution, praised for the originality and thoughtfulness of a sensitive and often painful issue, was to create a scent (through an item of clothing or perfume) to enable a continued connection with a loved one.

V&A Innovate judges and V&A Team at the shortlisting session

Dr Helen Charman, Director of Learning and National Programmes at the V&A, said:

“In a year where teachers and students have faced extraordinary challenges, lockdowns and months of lost learning – the imagination of ideas put forward, and quality of design-led thinking, for this year’s challenge was in equal measure astounding and inspiring for us all. I’m so grateful to Stephanie Sweeney, Ade Adepitan, Loyle Carner and Roma Agrawal for lending their time and know, like me, they look forward immensely to the V&A Innovate Pitching and Awards Day, for the opportunity to hear from the students personally. Developed in consultation with representatives across the educational sector, we encourage any schools interested to participate in V&A Innovate next year to get in touch with one of our Learning practitioners who will be able to guide them step-by-step through the process.”

Winners will be announced in June as part of the V&A Innovate Pitching and Awards Day, as will the themes and resources for V&A Innovate Year 3.

For more information about the V&A Innovate please follow this link here. Resources are free-to-access for any school and the National Schools Challenge is open to state-funded secondary schools in England.

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