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PA Raspberry Pi awards inspire future innovators

Dozens of the UK’s most innovative children descended on Central London on Tuesday as they showed off inventions designed to save the world in the final of the PA Raspberry Pi Awards.

The Awards are designed to inspire the next generation of innovators by asking children aged nine to 17 to solve a challenge using a Raspberry Pi microcomputer. This year, we asked schools and code clubs to save the world with sustainability solutions, something the children excelled at – just look at the shortlist of finalists.

I was privileged to the chair the judging panel, which comprised experts in technology, business and innovation, including the BBC’s technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones, NHS Digital CEO Sarah Wilkinson and other senior representatives from across the public and private sectors. The nine finalist teams impressed us greatly with their working prototypes.

When announcing the winners of the sixth form and college category, Rory said: “I’ve been a judge here for five or six years and it gets better every year. The enthusiasm gets better and better every year and you’ve all done really well.”

Team Emaginate, from Ysgol Deganwy, Conwy, winner in the primary school category (years 4-6), demonstrated a smart recycling bin. The bin reads barcodes and tells you which compartment your rubbish should go in. It also gives facts about the difference recycling each piece of rubbish makes.

The team explained the key to their success was teamwork, saying none of them could have done it all on their own.

Secondary school champions (years 7-11) Life of Pi from Kenilworth School, Warwickshire, created a system that automatically turns street lights on and off. Lasers and sensors detect when a person is near a street light and turns it on. Each light then communicates with its neighbours to work out when the person has left the area and can be turned off again.

The team highlighted persistence as the thing that made the difference to their project. Calibrating the sensors wasn’t easy and required constant adjustments.

In the sixth form and college category (years 12 and 13), September from the College of Richard Collyer, West Sussex, won with their wind- and solar-powered battery charger made from mostly recycled materials.

The team is already looking forward to building bigger and better things in their university lives and future careers.

And that’s the whole idea of the PA Raspberry Pi Awards – to inspire innovation. Not just in school children, but also in business leaders. That’s why we invited 20 senior leaders from across the public, private and charity sectors to come and meet the finalists. The children asked questions about what it takes to build a successful career, while the leaders got to experience the fresh enthusiasm and creativity of the children.

Steve Nicklin, Senior Fellow at the UK Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, said: “It’s great to see their enthusiasm… they’re the next generation of scientists. We don’t need the same old thinkers, we need people who are willing to do things differently.”

If you want to get involved in next year’s PA Raspberry Pi Awards, whether you’re a school or a business leader, head over to our competition page.

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