Youth Grand Challenges: Changing the world through science

Aged 11-19? Think you can come up with innovative ideas to change the world? The Youth Grand Challenges competition is giving young people a chance to design new solutions to combat infectious diseases.

Youth Grand Challenges: Changing the world through science
Run by the British Science Association and supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Youth Grand Challenges calls on students aged 11-to-19 to come up with innovative solutions that have the potential to change the world, and will reward the best projects from young people created in response. The Youth Grand Challenges will explore topics aligned with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Grand Challenges – unsolved scientific challenges that could lead to significant advances in terms of preventing, treating and curing diseases prevalent in developing countries. Watch this short explainer video to find out how you can get involved:

Infectious diseases

This year the theme is infectious diseases. The competition provides a chance for young people to enter the world of professional scientists, from researching vaccines for infectious diseases to designing creative new solutions that improve the lives of some of the poorest people on our planet.As we discuss in the Relocate Guide to Education & Schools in the UK, the importance of developing children’s STEM skills from an early age is vital if the UK wants to nurture the talent of the future.Young people or educators can enter their projects online from January 2017 onwards at www.youthgrandchallenges.org. Here, you'll also be able to find teaching resources and materials to help educators run projects with their young people, details on how to enter the competition, and a sign up form to keep informed about the latest news about the initiative.

Important to involve people in science at a young age

Katherine Mathieson, chief executive of the British Science Association, said, “I am delighted that today marks the launch of our Youth Grand Challenges initiative. The British Science Association prides itself on its work with young people, teachers and educators across the country, and I know that this scheme will be a big success.“I think it is so important to involve people at a young age in scientific endeavour and innovation not just to spark their imaginations but also to allow them a chance to see the role they can and will play in the future – especially when it involves issues as topical as the Youth Grand Challenges.”The new education initiative links with the British Science Association’s highly successful education programme, the CREST Awards, which has been recognising young people’s project work in science, technology, engineering and maths for over 30 years.All students who participate in the Youth Grand Challenges will receive recognition, including a CREST Award at the appropriate level – Discovery; Bronze; Silver; Gold – as well as being entered into the national competition, where they will have the chance to compete for prizes worth up to £10k.

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Bill Gates announced the launch of the Youth Grand Challenges on behalf of the British Science Association and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on ITV’s This Morning during a visit to London, where he spoke about the importance of including more young people in cutting-edge research. He explained that today’s students are the scientific and technological leaders of tomorrow and harnessing their insights on these important global issues is vital when looking for fresh innovation and discovery.This year’s theme for the Youth Grand Challenges is on infectious diseases, and students are encouraged to undertake project work on that overarching theme, such as investigating mosquito-borne diseases, identifying ways of improving sanitation in developing countries, or designing better transportation devices for delicate medicines such as vaccines. Infectious diseases are one of the leading causes of death worldwide. For example, each year over one million people die as a result of mosquito-borne diseases (source: Centre for Disease Control, Impact of Malaria 2016). Infectious diseases disproportionately affect developing countries, where deaths are predominantly caused by infectious diseases. Almost one third of deaths in LEDCs are caused by lower respiratory infections, HIV/AIDS, diarrhoeal diseases, malaria and tuberculosis (source: WHO).
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Dr James Logan, associate professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and presenter on Channel 4's Embarrassing Bodies, is an ambassador and VIP Judge for the Youth Grand Challenges. Speaking ahead of the launch, he said, “It’s fantastic to be able to challenge students to use their skills, passions and interests to explore real-life topics that are at the forefront of research and development – rather than them seeing science as just another school subject.“I really enjoy working with young people on my own research, not just because of their enthusiasm for the science, but also because they ask the questions I never think of!”

A money-can't-buy prize

The entries to the competition will be judged by a panel of expert and celebrity judges, including Channel 4’s Embarrassing Bodies presenter, Dr James Logan, and young entrepreneur and founder at Germinaid, Ciara Judge. The winning students will receive a money-can’t-buy prize, such as an international field trip to a laboratory in a developing country or a visit to their school from a renowned scientist working on global health issues. The winners will be announced in December 2017.Ciara Judge, entrepreneur and founder at Germinaid, is also a VIP judge for the Youth Grand Challenges and has experience herself of entering and, ultimately, winning science and engineering competitions for young people, “I am so excited to be working with the British Science Association on this fantastic youth initiative to encourage young people to innovate. As someone who comes very much from a science fair background, this cause is very close to my heart. I simply can’t wait to see what the participants come up with!”The British Science Association will provide multiple teaching resources and guides for educators, themes and ideas to inspire young people’s choices for their projects and support and advice for students partaking in the competition.Teachers, club leaders and other educators can register for the initiative and find out more at: www.youthgrandchallenges.orgFor related news and features, visit our Education and Schools section.Access hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online Directory  Get access to our free Global Mobility Toolkit

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