Tarmac mentors helping young minds realise their big ideas to help save the planet

May 25, 2022

Young scientists, engineers and technical experts of the future are bringing together their big ideas to help save the planet with the help of Tarmac.

School students have been working on business plans to help create a more sustainable world as part of the Big Ideas Programme run by Solutions for the Planet (S4TP). The social enterprise is working nationally to build partnerships between businesses and schools to promote sustainability, science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) careers as well as develop employability skills.

Aimed at students aged 11 to 14 (Key Stage 3 in England; S1 to S3 in Scotland), the programme is delivered in collaboration with Tarmac and other partners through employee volunteering.

For the past six months, Tarmac employees have been volunteering at local schools, helping students with their business plans to solve a sustainability issue. The Tarmac mentors have been providing insider industry knowledge to make their plans as comprehensive as possible.

Proposals, from young teams throughout the UK, were submitted to the Big Ideas Competition at the end of March with 73 of them being shortlisted for the seven regional finals, which are taking place throughout this month. If they make it through to the national final, they will have a chance to present their ideas to an illustrious panel of judges at the Palace of Westminster.

In addition to the 22 Tarmac employee mentors who have been working with schools, three senior managers from the company will join counterparts from across diverse sectors to judge the regional finals.

The Big Ideas South East England Regional Final was held at University of Portsmouth. The students presented their ideas in front of a panel of judges and the other teams during the day. The day also included a tour of the University of Portsmouth.

Simon Luckett, marine licence manager, was delighted to adjudicate the winners of the South East region – the first of the regional finals. The winners were Oasis Academy Scholing, whose G.R.O.W.T.H project – Growth, Revival, Outdoors, Wellbeing, Togetherness, and Health – emerged the winner, receiving high praise from the judging panel.

The year 8 students built a campaign, centred around ‘GROWTH Days’, designed to help students take care of their mental health with nature and creativity.

Simon said: “It is very exciting to hear the ideas some of our brightest young minds are bringing to the table.

“This project has been important for Tarmac because we love engaging with the local community and feel passionate about helping future generations realise their potential to positively impact our planet. The project has also helped the students develop skills in STEM subjects – all things we look for in future employees.”

Students from Bishop Young CofE Academy extinguished all challengers with an innovative idea for using drones to help fight fires to win the North of England Regional Final. The Fire Fighting Drone tracks forest fires with Early Warrning Data Systems (EWDS) technology and puts fires out.

The runners up were St Bernard’s School, whose P.INK is a product that removes ink from paper with heat, and uses it to re-print in an eco-friendly way, and Outwood Academy Freeston whose One Drop At a Time idea is a campaign and product that filters water for people to bring back to their villages in drought-stricken areas.

Scottish thrift proved a stylish winner in Scotland where Fashion Waste Warriors from Bannockburn High School unveiled their idea to produce clothing from recycled materials, as well as campaigning against textile waste by teaching skills for reducing waste. Another team from the same school claimed a runners-up spot with their Green Wildlife concept to produce a recycled and recyclable range of long-lasting teddies, and 40% of sales benefit animals. Fellow runners Up are Broughton High School whose Green Streets proposal is a service that employs those in need to pick up litter.

Settle College swept up top spot in the second of the North of England finals with their Carbon Vac – a small helicopter that flies and collects CO2 from the atmosphere. Alexandra Willan of ??, one of the judges commented: “I feel privileged to be able to meet with so many amazing young people and witness their creativity and talent. I’m blown away by their commitment to solving some major sustainability issues.”

The Central England regional final at Aston University was won by Alderbrook School, Solihull, for their ChargeFind app that shows the driver of an electric car where the nearest charging points are with an innovative communal area in the app that allows people that own charging points to rent their charging points to others. Well done also to Arden Academy, who saw two submissions Eco Tech (an eco-friendly printer allowing re-use of paper and ink), and ReBound Energy (a plan to produce more efficient multiple material solar panels using different materials to preserve as much heat as possible) claim runners-up spots.

In the other Central England finals – at the University of Wolverhampton – Colton Hill Community School cleaned up with Litter Buddy – an app that teaches people how to recycle waste. Colton Hill also enjoyed a runner-sup place with ReRoad – a new paving material made from recycled plastics. Heath Park Schools iR.H.G idea recreates plant pots and vases. Often these are made of clay that is dug up from the Earth, but by making these basic items out of materials like recycled paper, it will be possible to make not easily breakable and which  gives a mass-produced material a second life.

Coastal themes abounded in the South of England final in which Mangrove Mangrovation – a campaign to stop rising sea levels and prevent flooding – netted first place for Oaks Park High School, in Ilford. Stratford School Academy, in East London enjoyed runners-up spots for J.A.G.S. and C-Inclusive.

J.A.G.S produces a product called JAV-1 which absorbs air and releases oxygen, then splits the CO2 into oxygen, which is again released, and carbon, which is then buried underground in saline aquifers. C-Inclusive encourages people to recycle all plastic, and an app for school classes to record how much they recycle, which can be shared with the local authority in exchange for vouchers to provide school supplies.

The Schofield Award – a special recognition of the team that best embodies the spirit of Solutions for the Planet went to Cams Hill School, in ??, for Chloroplastics , whereby they hope to turning Irish moss seaweed into a sustainable plastic.

Jen Baughan, CEO of S4TP, said: “Our #BigIdeasProgramme lets young people explore STEM subjects and sustainability through independent learning and their own creative thinking. The confidence they develop and the belief they have in their ideas is truly inspiring. It’s mainly down to their enthusiasm and commitment, plus the dedication and help from their teachers and mentors from our key business partners such as Tarmac.

“Outstanding entrepreneurship, teamwork, presentation skills, and a broader knowledge of how STEM skills can be applied are just a few of the things students develop through our #BigIdeasProgramme. They build knowledge and tools they’ll carry with them into their futures, both in and outside of work.”

Mark Wood, Tarmac’s managing director for the South East, and chair of S4TP, said: “We’re really proud to be continuing our partnership of the #BigIdeasProgramme for the eighth year.

“Each year mentors – who volunteer many hours to support the #BigIdeasProgramme – feel a real sense of pride and satisfaction from taking part, gaining not only community engagement experience but making a real difference to young people’s lives.

“Their work helps to build confidence, teamwork, research, and problem-solving skills in students across the country. We are really looking forward to seeing which teams make the shortlist – good luck to all the contestants.”

A total of 506 teams – 3,055 students – from schools across the UK participated in Big Ideas days with 121 submissions being put forward which were whittled down to 73 regional finalists. Twelve projects will qualify for the finals at Westminster in June.

Largely through virtual mentoring, Tarmac employees were able to contribute more than 25 per cent of overall volunteering hours to the #BigIdeasProgramme.

For more information on S4TP, visit: https://solutionsfortheplanet.co.uk/