Capturing Energy from Walking? What a Bright Idea!


A team of four Year 9 students from Whalley Range High School in Manchester, have fought off tough competition from hundreds of schools across England, Scotland and Wales to become the national champions of Shell’s annual science competition, The Bright Ideas Challenge. The team won £5,000 to spend on state-of-the-art science and technology equipment for their school.

The team’s innovative future energy idea took centre stage at Make the Future Live, Shell’s four-day festival of bright energy ideas, which took place last week at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London.

With the average human taking 7000 steps a day, The Beautiful Bright Beginnings team recognised the potential of harnessing the energy created by the hundreds of millions of steps taken every day by the residents of future cities.

The team proposed the creation of ‘Electroes’ – power generating shoes that would use constant movement to convert kinetic energy into electrical energy to power personal devices. Foam pushers in ‘Electroes’ would activate special piezoelectric discs built into the shoe’s soles to generate an electrical current.

The team’s idea was showcased to thousands of festival-goers, along with creative concepts from fellow finalists from across the country and future energy concepts from around the world.

By 2050, it is predicted that demand for energy will double, creating a need to produce more and cleaner energy. The Bright Ideas Challenge asks school students, aged 11-14 years, to use their STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) skills, combined with creativity and teamwork, to come up with innovative energy solutions for making our future cities vibrant, healthy and clean places to live.

The five finalists’ ideas (chosen by a panel of industry experts) included everything from pipes that would capture the heat energy from hot waste water and convert it into useful voltage to portable bio-refineries that would convert organic food waste into a renewable electrical energy source.

Their winning concepts were brought to life at a prototyping session at Imperial College London, where their ideas were turned into 3D models. HP and Altair helped design and optimise these prototypes, introducing students to the fundamentals of CAD and 3D printing.

The public were given the opportunity to vote for their winning ‘bright idea’ with hundreds voting for Whalley Range High School’s ‘Electroes’ idea. The team was presented with their award by the competition’s celebrity ambassadors, Rachel Riley and Bobby Seagull.

The winning team, along with the 12 other regional winning teams, were VIP guests at the Make the Future Live festival, where they enjoyed live science shows, dynamic panel debates and the latest VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality) experiences.

Saffiya Ahmad, the team captain from Whalley Range School said: “Seeing our idea take centre stage at such a massive international festival that’s all about innovation, and knowing that it’s been voted as the public’s favourite ‘bright idea’, is a totally unforgettable moment for the whole team. It’s been so fun using what we’ve learnt with our science teacher to solve real world problems and help make a difference to all our lives in the future.”

Speaking about The Bright Ideas Challenge, Stephen Metcalf MP, The Government’s envoy for the Year of Engineering, commented: “It was a huge privilege to sit on Shell’s Bright Ideas Challenge judging panel and see the amazing creativity and talent of children from across the country. It’s so important that we help young people understand the connection between what they are learning in class and the impact those skills can have in shaping a better, brighter future.

“I hope that competitions like this inspire more children to become the scientists, engineers, innovators and problem solvers of the future.”

Annabel Jansen, STEM Coordinator at Whalley Range High School said: “We are so proud of our winning team of students. They worked so hard to bring their creative bright idea to life, so it’s wonderful to see them win. The whole school is excited about the new STEM equipment we will be able to buy with the £5,000 they won for the school. Hopefully it will inspire many more bright ideas in the future!”

July 2018

Creative Teaching & Learning