Skye Drinkwater from Chipping Campden School and Sally Dickson from Chosen Hill School have jointly won the FameLab Academy prize as the county’s best young science communicators. They won over the judges with talks on the life cycle of a star and investigating what would happen when the sun dies. The annual FameLab Academy competition is organised by Cheltenham Science Festival.
Due to demand from schools wanting to take part, this year’s competition was bigger than ever before. Over 3000 year 9 pupils from 22 Gloucestershire secondary schools took part, each competing for the chance to represent their school in the finals. Busloads of supporters were set to fill the Bacon Theatre earlier in the year, but due to Covid restrictions the finals took place last week online with family, friends and teachers joining in via Zoom.
Head judge Marieke Navin from Cheltenham Science Festival was joined by Jo Durrant (BBC Radio Gloucestershire) and Becky Ellis (FameLab UK winner). She said: “The students had just three minutes to explain a scientific topic of their choice, supported by their teachers and STEM mentors. As judges, we were looking for content, clarity and charisma – and we got those in abundance. There was such a breadth of interesting topics that we all learned something new and we were blown away by the quality of the presentations.”
The winners each win a stack of STEM books, a family outing to an escape room in Cheltenham, a trophy and £100 for their schools. The four runners-up were: Ben Pullin from Katherine Lady Berkeley’s School, Cheyanne Johnson from Holmleigh Park High School, Hettie Hudson from Rednock School and Tyler Guest from Cheltenham Bournside School who each won a stack of STEM books. All 22 finalists received a certificate and a £20 Waterstones voucher.
Ali Mawle, Director of Learning and Public Engagement at Cheltenham Festivals, said: “FameLab Academy is tackling head-on the shortage of young people studying STEM subjects in schools. By targeting Year 9 pupils in 22 schools across Gloucestershire we are changing students’ perceptions of science and nurturing the next generation of scientists.” She added: “Supporting emerging talent and delivering inspirational educational programmes is central to all Cheltenham Festivals do.”
Sarah Hannis, Education & STEM manager at EDF said: I was so pleased to see FameLab Academy continuing through the pandemic. It’s a great competition – one that helps young people develop a whole range of skills, including digital skills this year. It is incredibly inspiring to watch the students perform and the Zoom finals were excellent. I doubt that there are many adults who could deliver often complicated subjects so articulately. EDF is delighted to support Cheltenham Science Festival and FameLab Academy to inspire thousands of young people to achieve these extraordinary standards of presentation.”
Each school was matched with a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) Mentor trained in public engagement who visited the school and worked with students. The finalist from each school received a two-day Communication Masterclass and entry into the Gloucestershire final. STEM mentors supported from EDF, GE Aviation Systems, National Oilwell Varco Ltd, Lockheed Martin, Northrupp Grumman, MSB Steel Ltd, Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Rencol, Cardiff Metropolitan University and the NHS.