A sketch in purple and orange robotic fish for an Amazon competition entry
Entry from last year's prize: robotic fish that remove plastic from the ocean

The Amazon Longitude Explorer Prize, delivered by Nesta Challenges, calls on young bright minds to put their passion for science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) to the test by creating and developing technological innovations to help solve some of the biggest issues of our time.

It aims to reach students aged 11 – 16 across the UK and address the lack of diversity in STEM industries by providing young people from all backgrounds with an introduction to the possibilities of entrepreneurship in STEM and becoming the disruptors of the future.

According to a report from EngineeringUK earlier this year, only 12 percent of engineers in the UK are women and, according to the Intellectual Property Office, fewer than 13 percent of patents are made by women. More than half (55 percent) of entrants to the 2020 Longitude Explorer Prize were girls.

Last year’s prize saw more than 800 young people compete in teams from across the UK. Ideas ranged from robotic fish that remove plastic from the ocean, drones that enable Wi-Fi access in disaster zones, secure AI-enabled rovers that deliver medicines to people who are unable to leave their homes and map apps to help wheelchair users navigate level routes.

Female wearing a blue jumper smiling directly at the camera
Lauren Kisser, Director at Amazon’s Development Centre in Cambridge

This year, supporting STEM learning is vital, with structured and inspiring experiences that can be delivered in the classroom and online. Following the 2020 prize, which concluded in July, 93 percent of the finalists said they would now like to pursue a career in STEM. A majority of the young people taking part in the 2020 prize said they learned new remote working skills as a result, and all of the teachers and youth leaders who entered a team said they would enter the competition again in the future.

Lauren Kisser, Director at Amazon’s Development Centre in Cambridge, said: “There is a greater need for STEM skills than ever before as technology continues to transform careers, industries and every sector of our economy. The prize forms part of Amazon Future Engineer, our comprehensive childhood-to-career programme to inspire, educate and enable children and young adults from lower-income backgrounds to try computer science and engineering. I’m looking forward to seeing the creative, exciting projects the teams develop and supporting the finalists with mentoring from colleagues at Amazon.”

The Prize helps teachers easily incorporate the programme into lesson plans by providing an array of free online resources aligned with the school STEM and citizenship curriculum adapted to the Covid-19 classroom restrictions schools currently face, including bubble teaching and remote digital learning. This comes after research showed that 64% of secondary teachers are concerned that students have fallen behind in STEM with more than half worried that their year 7 students will not make up the lost ground of 2020 before they leave secondary school.

Applications now open

Applications open today and will close on the 12th February 2021. Entry is free and is open to teams of between two and five young people from schools and youth groups across the UK.

Teams are asked to create solutions based on one of four prize themes:

  • Living Longer – technological solutions to support an ageing population
  • Living Healthier – technological solutions that help people live happier and healthier lives
  • Living Greener – technological solutions that tackle pollution and climate change
  • Living Together – technological solutions that help people stay better connected in a way that is easy, safe and environmentally friendly as well as solutions to deliver more sustainable transport.

The winners will be awarded £20,000 for their school or youth group, and three teams of runners up will be awarded £5,000 each for their school or youth group.

With many schools closed due to Covid-19 earlier this year Amazon has launched a free virtual coding programme to help build computer science skills for students learning at home. The company also partnered with universities and educational resource developers to launch Maths4All, an online storefront providing free, curriculum-linked primary maths resources.

Female with blonde hair, wearing a black and white top with blue cardigan smiling directly at the camera
Maddy Kavanagh, Programme Manager, Nesta Challenges

Maddy Kavanagh, Programme Manager, Nesta Challenges said: “2020 has been one of the most difficult periods for teachers and young people alike. Schools are working hard to ensure students are not left at a disadvantage because of lockdown, and youth groups continue to provide vital extra-curricular services and support. Teachers are worried that the events of this year will have a lasting impact for the education of their students, with two-thirds concerned that science and technology education is falling behind, particularly because of the limits on practical lessons.

The Amazon Longitude Explorer Prize teaches young people entrepreneurial life skills and supports their development and confidence. The prize supports teachers and youth leaders in bringing the STEM curriculum to life, particularly when classroom conditions are challenging, while giving young people ownership over their learning and personal development.”

The deadline for entries is Friday 12th February at 5pm. To find out more and apply, visit Amazon Longitude Explorer.