Students from across the south east have received recognition for their creative and inspirational engineering ideas to solve problems in the world around them.

In a special ceremony hosted by Canterbury Christ Church University, the winners of the Primary Engineer Leaders Award were celebrated.

The national competition asks students from 3 to 19 year’s old: “If you were an engineer – what would you do?” which encourages them to come up with creative solutions to problems they identify in the world.

The competition is designed to spark an interest in engineering and aims to inspire a generation of young people, from all backgrounds, to explore and seek careers in engineering.

It provides an opportunity for young people engage and speak with local engineers about their careers and what motivates them. As pupils interview engineers they are encouraged to look at the world around them to find problems an engineered solution could solve. Annotated drawings and an accompanying letter are produced by students to submit to the competition, each entry is then judged by engineers and academics with every pupil being given a graded certificate.

This year saw over 32,000 students participate across the UK, with nearly 2,000 from 16 schools across the south east. The winning designs included a honey bee feeder by Oscar (Reception) at St John's CE Primary School​, an eco-friendly loo roll dispenser by Imogen (Year 1) at Rowan Preparatory School, a solar panelled heated folding camping chair by Lily (Year 3) at Busbridge Junior School​ and a face for a plant which sees a plant pot with sensors that displays emojis if the plant needs more water or light by Zavier (Year 5) at St Thomas' Catholic Primary School.

Oscar with his winning honey bee feeder design.
Oscar with his winning honey bee feeder design.

This year’s Judges' Special Prize went to Anna (Year 6) at Greenway Academy​ for her emergency stop design. In her invention a drone would fly ahead of emergency vehicles to give drivers instructions when to pull over to let the emergency vehicle through and change traffic lights to ensure quicker and safer routes for the emergency services.

Anna said: “I wanted to design something that would help everyone and helping emergency vehicles be able to get to the location of the emergency on time and safely is very important.

“It was fun to take part in the competition and design. It’s not something I’ve thought of before but will do more of now.”

Anna with her two winning certificates and Emergency Stop design
Anna, the winner of the Judges' Special Prize with her emergency stop design.

The judges said Anna’s emergency stop was an exceptional design that showed an understanding of problems, a great deal of innovation and creative and out of the box thinking.

Chris Rochester, UK Director of Primary Engineer, said: “We would like to thank all the students and their teachers, who have taken part in this year’s competition. Once again you have amazed us with your outstanding work, creativity and empathy to the problems people in our families, our communities or the world face. Your designs are amazing and your solutions ingenious and if the future is in the hands of this generation, then we are in very good hands.

“We are about to enter our tenth year of the Leaders Award and we couldn’t run such a large-scale competition without the support of our partners, who work with us to inspire the next generation of engineers.”

Zavier and his face for a plant design.
Zavier and his face for a plant design.

Professor Mohammed Abdel-Maguid, Pro Vice-Chancellor (STEM) and Dean of the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Social Science at Canterbury Christ Church University, the south east sponsor for competition, was part of the panel who awarded the prizes at the special celebration event for the winners. He said: “The designs this year were magnificent and made the judging process extremely difficult. The energy and passion, creativity and problem-solving application to make the world a better place was truly inspirational. All the winners should be very proud of themselves and for what they have achieved.

“We’re proud to sponsor this truly wonderful competition that helps to engage and inspire young people to study STEM and understand engineering. We hope one day to welcome them back to the University as world changing students.”

Next year is the 10th Anniversary of the competition and you can learn about how to get involved here: