The Bright Ideas Challenge invites secondary pupils, aged 11 to 14, to come up with innovative ways of powering cities of the future. In the past, winning ‘bright ideas’ have ranged from capturing the kinetic energy of trains to create sustainable energy, to solar-powered streetlights, to installing dynamos on gym equipment.

At the start of lockdown in March 2020, Shell’s education team worked with our expert partners to adapt the programme so it could be delivered online. The digital resource kit included a video to help students complete their entries from home.

Other adaptations included inviting individuals as well as teams to enter, as collaborating with other pupils isn’t as easy when you’re not in the classroom, and extending the entry submission date to give students time to adapt to virtual learning. In 2021, even more resources have been developed to continue helping teachers and students engage with the competition, including an ‘inspiration pack’ filled with handy tips and hints on how to complete a winning entry and examples from previous winning ideas.

Gareth Thistleton from Shell UK Social Investment said: “It’s been a really tough time for students and teachers in the past year, and we’re pleased to have been able to continue to support STEM learning while schools have been closed or working virtually. The Bright Ideas Challenge attracted a record number of entries last year and we’ve received lots of positive messages from teachers about how the changes helped them deliver virtual learning.”

Some of Shell’s other STEM programmes have also been adapted for online delivery. The Energy Quest programme, managed by EngineeringUK, is designed to excite young people about careers in engineering, while Connecting STEM Teachers offers professional development for STEM teachers, delivered with the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Gareth said: “We’re refreshing all our STEM programmes so that we can continue to support schools, pupils and parents, and help students catch up with the critical STEM learning they may have missed during the COVID crisis. We’re particularly keen to see how we can work more closely with less privileged schools, which have been disproportionately impacted.”