What problems are the world facing right now, and how can we solve them? This was the question posed to students who took part in the Great Exhibition² project, a special science and innovation programme for schools close to Exhibition Road, from Big Ideas and Imperial College, London. 

They were tasked with coming up with their own problem-solving designs and prototypes, inspired by the amazing inventions displayed at the original Great Exhibition of 1851. Imperial researchers volunteered as GE² mentors, offering every class a chance to discuss and refine their ideas with a real life scientist. Local primary schools took part connecting young people from nearby boroughs to the rich offer going on in and around Exhibition Road. 

The students responded to the brief in creative and clever ways. Many of the classes focussed on the issue of climate change and the environment, coming up with machines that clean the ocean or cleanable paper that can be reused. 

Great Exhibition² has been a wonderful experience. The students’ innovations were diverse and highly creative – a real credit to the next generation of scientists, leaders and artists. Our discussions, led by their thoughtful questions, brought fresh perspectives to modern issues and was a reminder of the importance of tackling these challenges together.” Mark Boyd, Imperial mentor. In total, around 100 members of the public, as well as the students themselves, visited the Ge2 tent to see the amazing innovations on display. 

 

After the sessions with their mentors, they built prototypes and models to display at The Great Exhibition Road Festival 2022. Parents and teachers came down to see the Great Exhibition² display. Children explained their inventions to the public. Four schools that completed the project were in attendance with both students and teachers coming to celebrate.

Around 25 students came to see their work displayed and take part in the prize giving. One teacher noted how, despite being in such close proximity, students at their school often feel as though this particular part of London is “not for them” and that meeting the Imperial mentors showed them that science is an option. Hundreds of festival go-ers attended the tent to see these amazing innovations.  Olympic Gold Medalist Sir Mo Farah awarded medals to the participants, including ‘Nature’s Trailblazers’ and ‘Future Innovators.’ Three schools won laptops from Huawei with other schools receiving sustainable wooden medals celebrating innovators of the future.

“It’s amazing to see this art and science from all of you, that’s why I bought my daughters along, and I’m very inspired by you all” – Sir Mo Farah

Councilor Emma Will, Lead Member for Culture at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, visited the GE2 display, pictured in the tent with Bernard Taylor, Chair of the Royal Commission of 1851. She said: 

“The GE2 tent was one of the highlights of my visit to the Great Exhibition Road Festival. Congratulations to all the classes taking part and especially medallists Jack and AJ from Old Oak – I loved your prototype VR shoes complete with room tidying rewards. Bousfield Primary your bee house is boujie! And – last but not least – very well done to St Vincent de Paul for the Ingenious Inventions medal. It is wonderful to see your contributions at the heart of the Festival.”

“We are delighted to support and celebrate the creativity and ingenuity of young people growing up so close to Imperial through the Great Exhibition2 project. Seeing their Great Exhibition in the tent this weekend right outside our main entrance made us think about the future. Our message: keep coming down to Exhibition Road to enjoy everything on offer and we hope to welcome you through our doors as students in years to come.” Vicky Brightman, Director Great Exhibition Road Festival, Imperial College, London