Imperial College London

Inspiring the next generation of inventors

Young people are natural inventors, spurred on by their innate curiosity and need to experiment and explore. We wanted to help harness this instinct by supporting a project run by Imperial College London, one of the world’s top universities.

The Proto-Maker Challenge is a scientific problem-solving programme where groups of 11 to 14 year olds design, build and develop solutions to the challenges the world is facing or might face soon. They’re guided by university staff and student ambassadors throughout a series of workshops. Currently, 5 schools take part each year. Our grant of just over £78,800 means a further 3 schools a year can participate, reaching up to 90 students each year for 3 years.

  • 587 state secondary school pupils have taken part in the Proto-Maker Challenge over the last five years.
  • Our grant is ensuring an additional 90 pupils across 3 schools can participate and develop essential STEM skills.
  • Imperial College London has 400 trained and paid Student Ambassadors (like the ones supporting the students in the current challenge) who act as role models, providing support and mentoring to inspire the next generation with STEM.

Developing STEM skills

The Proto-Maker Challenge programme starts with a workshop where students get familiar with creative concepts, including design and prototyping equipment and tools. Next, they take part in after-school mentoring workshops to research, plan and design their projects. Two development workshops follow, allowing the groups to continue developing, refining, and prototyping their ideas. As part of the Proto-Maker Challenge, there’s a competition between participating schools to come up with the best invention. The schools come together for a final showcase event where they can view and celebrate each other’s inventions.

Building on the curriculum, the Proto-Maker Challenge helps young people develop innovation skills and hopes to motivate them to work towards careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM). As the only UK university solely dedicated to provision in STEM, Imperial College London is committed to widening access and participation in these subjects. They hope the challenge will also positively impact the number of girls selecting STEM or skills-based further education options.

“The Proto-Maker Challenge is a key part of our community and schools outreach programming for our local White City schools and families. This stage of school for young people is fundamental to maintaining enthusiasm and motivation for science and maths studies, and it is wonderful to be able to offer this programme that supports schools and pupils in such a key period of their schooling. It has become a very important part of our programme portfolio with great feedback from schools, and our own staff and ambassadors who come back to work on it time and time again.”

Dr Melanie Bottrill, Head of Outreach Programmes, Imperial College London

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