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Insights Atkins Net Zero Superheroes: Inspiring the future

Giving back has never been so much fun. Atkins' nuclear and power team recently launched the Net Zero Superheroes competition across UK schools. Across major centres from London to Bristol, Birmingham, Glasgow and Nottingham, students got involved through All About STEM hubs and Atkins employee STEM networks.

"Net Zero is about more than planting trees and turning off lights. Engineering and innovation are key to delivering it. We can only do so by inspiring and developing young talent to make it a reality."
–Karen Hills, Head of Carbon and Sustainability Programme at Atkins and Net Zero Superhero judge

image of net zero superheros

How to go from Superhero to Net Zero

To qualify, you had to be aged from 7 to 14. And the challenge? Use your STEM skills to come up with ingenious ideas for the UK to meet its 2050 Net Zero target. The themes were energy use, recycling, sustainability, emissions reduction, or any other topic which could contribute to reaching the target. 

Taking STEM beyond the curriculum

We wanted every child to get involved and have a great time, no matter their background or interest in STEM. An Atkins mentor visited each school, helping to take STEM conversations into real-life energy and sustainability issues. It was exciting to take the children into our world and help them understand what engineers actually do.

“The challenge also gave children the opportunity to stand up and present their ideas. Many teachers told us that many of them had never done this before. It definitely helped to boost their confidence!"
–Maddy Weight, graduate environmental engineer at Atkins and member of the team that devised the challenge

Visions to transform our futures

The over 1,200 learners loved the challenge, putting forward 134 original ideas. The entries came in exciting formats, from posters to motion-stop Lego videos, models, animations, Minecraft constructions, and raps and songs. 

Highly creative and well-reasoned ideas

One team suggested cycle power in the school gym. They worked out it could produce enough energy to grow and feed everyone in the school. Every stage of the process was worked out to demonstrate how the idea would work in practice.  

"We were blown away by the incredible originality and inventiveness! The entries showed a comprehensive understanding of climate issues and novel, innovative solutions to resolve them.”
– Karen Hills

image of an Atkins employee teaching school children

Meet the Net Zero Superheroes 2021

Winning ideas were assessed on how effective, novel and engaging they were. Prizes included a trip to the nearest Net Zero supporting power station, an engineering drone demo and donations of between £100 and £250 to spend on sustainable resources for their school. We also held a raffle for all competition entries. All schools received a certificate for taking part. 

Primary School Winners, aged 7 to 11

Team Bicycle 1000 from Victoria Park Academy in Birmingham with the pedal power idea, linking together fitness and Net Zero ambitions, which they presented with great energy. 

Team Elder 1: Bannockburn Primary School, East London's idea, was an innovative solution for a nature-based classroom with a glass dome that used solar energy. 

Individual Winner: 11-year-old Rosie from Elmlea School in Bristol developed an idea for a carbon consumer unit for carbon capture on every house, backed up with some impressive research.

Secondary School Winners, aged 11 to 14

First Prize: Whitehaven Academy in Cumbria, whose team presented a poster showcasing a Minecraft model of their new school premises, with lots of low carbon features. 

Special raffle prize: Heatherley School in Nottinghamshire 

Highly Commended: Farrington Gurney Primary, Bristol; Clober Primary, Glasgow; Filton Avenue Primary, Bristol; Heatherley Primary, Nottinghamshire; Westhill Primary, Aberdeenshire; Cloverlea Primary, Glasgow; High Down Junior School, Portishead, Bristol; Sheldon School, Chippenham, Wiltshire; Redland Green School, Bristol; Ashlyns School, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire; and Our Lady's Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire

2022: Watch this space!

The team is already devising a second challenge for next spring. It will include more categories and encourage more participation from schools of all types and sizes across the UK. We can't wait to don our thinking caps and capes again, and uncover even more Net Zero Superheroes.

Read more about our Engineering Net Zero ambitions.