Bedford Free School came to London on 11 November to celebrate winning the Aspire to Engineer summer challenge. Nigel Williams presented the Aspire to Engineer trophy to Jo from Bedford Free School at the Science Museum on Exhibition Road. 

Jo claimed this summer’s Aspire to Engineer prize for a stunning USB charging shoe researched and presented with classmate Abi, who were both in year 9 when they entered the competition this summer.

Image Right: Winner Jo receives Bedford Free School’s Aspire to Engineer: The Renewables Challenge trophy from Nigel Williams, Secretary of the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 


Winner Jo explained how they had centred their research on the engineering challenge and “how to extract the energy and make it work on a practical level.” Jo, a keen artist, created the eye-catching design.  

Image Above: Illustration from the winning entry for Aspire to Engineer: The Renewables Challenge.

Drawing on the work of the three groundbreaking engineers featured in the Aspire to Engineer: The Renewables Challenge classroom resources, Jo and Abi incorporated technologies such as a toe cap constructed of mini ‘photovoltaic cells’ inspired by research from Oxford University’s Henry Snaith, a heel which stores generated electricity similar to Kristian Eikeland Holmefjord’s marine batteries, as well as a the heel and sole of their shoe housing a ‘miniscule wind turbine which generates electrical energy with each step’ influenced by the work of Danielle Merfeld on wind turbines for GE Renewable Energy. 

Bedford Free School opened Aspire to Engineer across the school and were delighted to see that the Renewables Challenge caught the imagination of so many female students. 

1851RC judge Helen Harris also came to meet the school delegation at the Science Museum. “I hope you are really proud of your achievements,” she told them, “and keep going with STEM!”

The school brought a group of 12 students from years 8, 9 and 10, all of whom had entered the competition under their own initiative, to attend the Winners Day celebration at Exhibition Road. Following the trophy presentation, students visited the stunning Amazonia exhibition at the Science Museum and had a tour of the Our Broken Planet show at the Natural History Museum with curator Lottie Dodwell followed by a question and answer session with one the scientific advisors for the exhibition.

Image Above: Bedford Free School students take inspiration from the statue of Charles Darwin at the Natural History Museum during their Aspire to Engineer Winners Day.

Assistant Headteacher Michael Cox, who accompanied the group on their winning trip, said, “We all had such a brilliant time. The scientist we met at the Natural History Museum was amazing. This is what we do the job for!” Jo and Abi will also each receive a £50 book token.

Runner up entries for the summer challenge came from High Tunstall College of Science where pupil Isla used GameMaker software to build a game with 6 varying levels, each documenting the desperate need for renewable energy; Lancing Prep Worthing where pupil John impressed the judges with his CAD modelling skills; and Lundin Mill Primary School where a STEM club presentation effort delighted the judges and demonstrated unity and teamwork. All runners up will receive a video call with one of our amazing engineers, plus a £50 voucher. All entrants will receive a certificate of participation. 

The winter challenge is open for entries from schools across the UK until midnight Thursday 19th December.  Prizes for winners of the winter challenge include up to £500 for your class or school to spend on STEM enrichment activities. Find out more, and request your free classroom resources here.