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Mayor Praises Stem Challenge Finalists As Big Big Project Winner Revealed

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen has applauded pupils’ ideas to help protect our environment as the winners of schools Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) challenge The Big Big Project were announced.

The Big Big Project is an expansion of The Big Project, led by engineering firm Jacobs and Carmel College, to help raise awareness of the STEM agenda and boost relationships between schools, pupils and their would-be employers. Following its success, the Tees Valley Mayor and Combined Authority got involved to bring it to other schools via TeesValleyCareers.com and broaden its scope.

Students in nine teams across five Tees Valley schools were given a business mentor and challenged to find solutions to repair the planet by 2030 aligned with the aims of the global environmental Earthshot Prize. These goals include protecting and restoring nature; cleaning our air; reviving our oceans; building a waste-free world and fixing our climate.

Despite restrictions surrounding the coronavirus pandemic meaning some schools had to drop out, teams from St Hild’s Church of England school in Hartlepool and Our Lady & St Bede Catholic Academy in Stockton-on-Tees reached the final.

The four finalists presented their ideas, which included introducing reusable water bottles with a smart technology reward system; planting sea grasses on the banks and beds of the River Tees to counter-balance carbon emissions; the invention of a product that collects plastic waste from the oceans; and creating living breathing gardens in urbanised industrial areas to prevent air pollution. Team two from Our Lady & St Bede grabbed the prize.

Mayor Houchen said: “We have an enviable and growing reputation across our region for STEM-related industries and as we continue to expand our clean energy ambitions, opportunities in these fields will only increase for our future workforce.

“Schemes like the Big Big Project are vital to getting our young people engaged across all STEM sectors, so that they can develop their skills, meet potential future employers and discover the full range of roles available so they can have a well-paid, good-quality career right here in Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool.

“Well done to all of the finalists who have worked hard on their projects, and particular congratulations to Our Lady and St. Bede’s winning team. This also couldn’t go ahead without the help of our brilliant business mentors who have signed up to TeesValleyCareers.com and the teachers who have helped out too.”

Mike Bowen, Senior Associate Director at Jacobs said: “The Big Big Project has given Jacobs the opportunity to engage with students across the Tees Valley on a personal level. It’s enabled us to support the development of skills to make them ‘work ready’ and to provide opportunities to engage with a variety of local businesses and broaden their understanding of the diverse range of career opportunities available in the region.

“The Big Big Project is a fantastic opportunity for young people of all ages to work together to build a dynamic team that is able to address issues faced by businesses and individuals and show how improvements can be made.”

Additional assistance throughout the project came from the Department for Work and Pensions and Achieving Change. Business mentors who have volunteered to be a part of the Big Big Project are signed up to the TeesValleyCareers.com initiative, which aims to give pupils up to seven meaningful engagements with employers, and some are also part of the Tees Valley Enterprise Adviser Network Programme.

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