Imagine a machine that could save the planet by healing the hole in the ozone layer. The Solar Propelled Ozone Molecule Converter (SPOMC) is designed to do just that – and it was invented by a 12-year-old.
The inventor, Poppy, was one of 750 entrants (a mix of classes and individual schoolchildren), who took part in last year’s Digital Innovators competition – a collaboration between Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and children’s newspaper First News – to inspire young people to explore science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
The competition was such a success it is running again this year. From October to December, TCS and First News will be inviting seven-year-olds to young teens to come up with an innovative solution to a problem, with the winner announced in the New Year.
This year, the competition entries will be focused on young people supporting, helping and empowering older people – and will be backed up with a school pack to provide teachers with resources and links to the curriculum.
Ideas take off
Last year’s head of judges was British astronaut Major Tim Peake, who said of Poppy’s winning entry: “I loved the use of science!”
There were three other winners, whose inventions included a robot to help combat loneliness and a device to let you know when produce in your fridge has passed its use-by date.
In April, two of the winners came on stage at the TCS Innovation Forum to present their ideas and receive their prizes, which included a tablet and a sleepover experience at London’s Science Museum.
Yogesh Chauhan, TCS Director of Corporate Sustainability, believes children are never too young to learn about technology and says: “We are particularly proud of Digital Innovators because it’s aimed at a young age group and it’s a partnership.
“First News has a very wide readership, with a weekly circulation of two million. It’s become a real phenomenon and is particularly popular with parents who want their kids to get into the habit of regularly reading the news.
“Last year, we had a series of editorials in the newspaper to get young people excited and interested about technology. Even if 10% of the readership took notice, that is a substantial number of young people.”
Closing the skills gap
Digital Innovators is just one of a raft of initiatives TCS is rolling out under the #IfNotYouWho campaign, aimed at closing the digital skills gap among young people in the UK.
In 2018, only 12% of executives believed graduates had adequate digital skills and more than 75% were experiencing problems recruiting for digital jobs.
But with Business 4.0 driving the expansion of STEM jobs in future, it’s predicted that, without adequate education and training, the UK could lose out on more than £140 billion in the growth of its GDP over the next decade.
Alongside Digital Innovators, TCS runs IT Workshops and Digital Explorers events, aimed at a slightly older age group, which allow students to meet people working in the industry and learn from them. As Chauhan says: “We want to inspire young minds to help lead them towards more creative, intellectually stimulating and rewarding careers.”