5-minute briefing: The Big Bang Competition

Sep 10, 2019

Amy Lawrence, The Big Bang Competition

The Big Bang Competition recognises and rewards young people’s science and engineering project work and identifies the GSK UK Young Engineer and GSK UK Young Scientist of the Year. Here Amy Lawrence, who coordinates The Competition, gives her view on what makes it special.

Tell us a little bit about your job, Amy.

I work closely with the Competition Manager to deliver The Big Bang Competition.

My role has recently changed to Competition Coordinator and in my new role I will be managing the online heats, supporting delivery partners to deliver the regional heats and looking after our online registration forms to ensure all competitors can easily provide information about their projects.

I will also be managing our finalist care in the lead up and during The Big Bang Competition Finals which I am very excited about; this means working closely and staying in contact with all finalist teams whilst they prepare for their trip to Birmingham, ensuring finalists feel well-prepared and know what to expect at The Big Bang Fair.

And I will be leading our Finalist Care Volunteers onsite; FCVs are past competitors who come back to the NEC to support finalists, having been through the experience themselves.

What’s your favourite bit about working on The Big Bang Competition?

I love seeing what topics really capture the interest of young people, and seeing their ideas come to life! Last year we had projects ranging from improving water filtration and access across the world, engaging demonstrations of practical physics investigations, modern ergonomic design of household and workspace equipment, studies into ecosystems and how we can track and record animal’s behaviour, the use of drones as emergency responders, numerous biomedical research studies and the improvement of public health knowledge and communications.

One of the biggest topics we saw coming through last year, in both our science and engineering streams, was creating more sustainable communities and technologies. Projects researched the impact of and ways to reduce the levels of CO2, the removal of plastics in our oceans and plastic alternatives for production, maintaining wind and solar turbines and generally generating and distributing clean (and green) energy.

Our competitors can really change the world we live in today, and I love that we can provide a platform for them to present their work, receive recognition, and attract interest.

What do you think young people get out of taking part in The Competition?

There are many different opportunities competitors may take part in whilst participating in The Competition, including the opportunity to develop some new skills.

All competitors will present their work to our judges; if they take part through our regional heats, they will have the chance to practice a face-to-face presentation and learn how to talk about their work to our judges, but also to a wide audience of visitors who want to know more about STEM – the same goes for the Finals. Competitors who take part in our online heats practice their writing skills and / or video skills.

All competitors receive judges’ feedback no matter what event they attend; this is incredibly important as judges tell competitors what they liked about their work and what their highlights were, as well as giving guidance on the next steps. Josh Mitchell, our 2018 UK Young Engineer of the Year, had entered his project ‘the Plybot’ into The Competition a year earlier; he did well and made it through to the Finals, but it was the judges’ guidance on how he could improve his work that gave him the help and drive to continue working on his invention and return the following year, and win!

And, of course, there are lots of prizes to be won along the way! There are £20,000 worth of prizes to be won, including the chance to become GSK UK Young Engineer and GSK UK Young Scientist of the Year. There are also opportunities for experience days and free memberships through some of our special prizes.

What advice would you give competitors?

It’s OK to be nervous! Whether you are entering our online heats or meeting judges face-to-face, showcasing your work for the first time is scary, especially in a competition! Please know our judges are here to encourage and support you and are excited to see what you have been working on.

If nerves get the better of you during a presentation, or if anything doesn’t quite go to plan, don’t worry – we’ve all been there (including your teachers!). If you want to rephrase anything or add in something you may have missed, just let our judges know – you are in charge of your presentation, and they will take your lead.

Remember you can only do your best and stepping out of your comfort zone is a huge step, we will be rooting for you all. Good luck! 

What are you working on at the moment?

At the moment, I am really focusing on how to encourage finalists to think more about how they present their work at their stands, and how they can attract visitors to find out more about their work.

Judging is obviously important; however it takes up a relatively small portion of finalists time when they are on the showfloor. We have thousands of visitors, the majority being young people just like our finalists, wanting to know more about STEM and why STEM is so important. I want our finalists to spread the passion and engage with as many visitors as possible! They can do this through giving their presentations, demonstrating their work and inviting visitors to have a go, and including them in their experimentations.

This helps finalists develop skills in making STEM accessible to a wide audience; visitors may not understand complicated jargon or the complexity of some experiments or design features, so finalists need to find a way to ensure their audience leave their stand feeling like they’ve understood all aspects of their work. 

This is also a great way for finalists to practise their presentations before they meet our judges!

Any highlights you’d like to share?

Although I standby the saying ‘it’s not all about the winning’, the awards ceremony is always a massive highlight for me. Here we really get to celebrate and show our finalists how much we appreciate their time and efforts not only showcasing their work but spending the time in Birmingham.

I love that all finalists get a medal and some time to take photos on our red carpet, the entertainment is always fun and engaging, and we always have cool presenters, such as Maddie Moate and Greg Foot.

It gets a little emotional when the awards are announced; we’ve been working closely with all finalists for so long, and it’s great to see them on stage celebrating their work.

It’s a huge milestone in our year too! For our team the award ceremony brings our Finals planning to a close, which we work intensively on for around 5-6 months.

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