A 12-year-old schoolgirl with the idea for a Tech T-shirt that could save lives was "top of the class" at our 6th Annual Innovation Competition yesterday, held at Canterbury Christ Church University.
Once again Rotarians, invited guests, teachers and schoolchildren had an inspiring morning thanks to the popular competition. Now in its 6th year, the competition attracts entries from schools across Kent, with youngsters coming up with innovative ideas that "will help improve life in some aspect".
The final took place in the Old Sessions House of Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU), with the youngsters presenting their ideas from the raised platform to an audience including the Sheriff of Canterbury, Cllr. Jeanette Stockley accompanied by Tim Fifield; the new President of our Club, Neil Fraser; academics and staff from CCCU; local entrepreneur and former Rtn Mark Esdaile; a number of other Rotarians; teachers and fellow students.
Entries were of a high standard and were warmly received by both audience and judges. This year, the participating schools collated their entries and submitted the three which they considered the top entries from their school. Finalists were selected from these nominations following a preliminary meeting of judges - Dr David Bennett, from CCCU, PP Dr Harry Cragg and Rtn Dr Julie Reza. Ten entries were chosen from six of the schools that entered; sadly, a last-minute withdrawal of two of the selected finalists reduced the number of oral presentations to eight.
The event was opened with a warm welcome address by Dr Lynette Turner, Dean of the Faculty of Education at CCCU, who reminded us of Christ Church's long association with teacher development and education. After thanking our venue hosts Neil Fraser welcomed and introduced Cllr. Stockley and Tim Fifield; he then introduced the three judges for the final: Professor Berry Billingsley, Professor in Science Education at CCCU; PP Dr Harry Cragg, former Lord Mayor & former Dean of Natural Sciences at the University of Kent (UKC); and Chair of Judges, Dr Julie Reza, Scientific Writer & Consultant, formerly from the World Health Organisation and Wellcome Trust. Past President, Richard Kemball-Cook then introduced each of the finalists ahead of his or her presentation.
The majority of the ideas which the entrants put forward were based on solving problems that the students had either encountered themselves or had seen friends and family face. First up was Ben Warren from Simon Langton Boy's School with "Flipper Bench" - a bench that flips when the seat is wet. A simple animation from Ben showed how the bench would work in practice. Next up was Lara Modi from Kent College with "Mat Master" - magnetic plates and placemats that will help the visually impaired, children and elderly avoid spills. The judges were impressed by the fact that a brand name and logo was already in place and that Lara had brought along a prototype to demonstrate. Charlie Jain, also from Kent College, presented the concept of "Slicer" - a special chopping board that incorporates braille to help the visually impaired in the kitchen. Katherine Nock, from Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School (QEGS) in Faversham presented a "Closed Dustpan" to aid cleaning out rabbit/guinea pig hutches, clearly demonstrating the problem with pictures of her mother cleaning her rabbit hutch. Evie Curd, also from QEGS, outlined her idea for a smartphone app that will encourage people to be more aware of the environment when making purchases, so that they choose environmentally-friendly products and learn more about climate change. James Kent (QEGS), inspired by a situation he'd faced when transporting heavy items up stairs at work, showed his nicely-illustrated idea for an easy-to-use transportation cradle; he told us his former employers were already interested in his design. Lily Beckett (King Ethelbert), also inspired by situations she'd faced personally, presented her idea for a laser-based needle-less device for a variety of blood tests. Finally, Sabrina Aime from Dover Grammar School presented her idea for a Tech T-shirt with a built-in heart rate sensor etc. that can be used to prevent sudden deaths on the sports field and elsewhere. She'd even produced a dramatic trailer to showcase the problem she was solving before she presented her design and prototype.
Whilst the judges were deliberating, Mark Esdaile gave a humorous but serious message to all the innovators and future entrepreneurs which was very well received, particularly his message that "Engineers are King/Queen" - something that resonated with our President, who is a chartered civil engineer!
After a some deep deliberation and discussion the judges re-emerged to announce Sabrina Aime as the competition winner. Sabrina was presented with a cheque for £300 by the Sheriff of Canterbury, while second place winner, James Kent and third place winner, Evie Curd, received cheques for £100 and £50. The judges gave a special mention to Lara Modi and Lily Beckett. All of the presenters received a certificate and book token.
The Chair of Judges commended all participants, their teachers and schools. She later stated: "It's been the best year yet for presentations; we were particularly impressed as, for most of the students, this will have been their first experience of public speaking - yet they showed little sign of nerves and ably presented and discussed their ideas".
After the awards were handed out the Sheriff of Canterbury summarised her feelings about all of the impressive presentations, saying how much she'd enjoyed her morning. She ended with congratulations to everyone who'd taken part.
Finally, Neil Fraser closed the morning with his suggestion to all entrants to keep up their efforts. "Don't stop," he encouraged, "rewards are there for the taking". His final thanks were given to Rtn Brian Dobinson who has been at the forefront of all six well-received and acclaimed Innovation Competitions, to the Judges, and to Rtn Maxine Blades, who provided the refreshments.
Our Club is indebted to County Development Co. Ltd, Clague Architects, the Kentish Gazette and the venue hosts Canterbury Christ Church University, for their continued support.
With grateful thanks to PP Mike Talbot for assisting with this article.
For more details about the Innovation Competition and our other activities and support aimed at young people, click here.
Picture: Participants in the competition with judges, dignitaries and teachers. Picture credit: Richard Kemball-Cook/Rotary Club of Canterbury.
More pictures on our facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/rotarycanterbury/