The Amazon Longitude Explorer Prize, delivered by Nesta Challenges, has unveiled a final shortlist of 40 inspirational projects from teams of 11–16-year-olds who are in the running to win a top prize of £20,000 or £5,000 for three runners-up.

The competition aims to 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. Teams are invited to develop innovative ‘tech for good’ solutions to help solve society’s biggest issues.

Shortlisted finalists include a sea-cleaning robot sphere that detects and removes microplastics with infrared sensors; a hand sanitiser-dispensing and infrared thermometer phone case that reminds the user to wash their hands and take their temperature regularly, and an app that tackles period poverty by linking female participation in sport and exercise with free monthly hygiene packs, alongside motivational, fitness and mental health tips.

Other game-changing ideas include:

  • Devices that harvest kinetic energy every time a door is opened and closed to feed into the electricity grid
  • A carbon footprint-measuring app to help people make sustainable shopping decisions easily
  • A platform that uses AI to teach people sign language
  • Eco-friendly water bottles that encourage the user to drink water more often
  • Wearable devices for PTSD sufferers that uses sensors and GPS tracking to monitor behaviour and notify friends and family of episodes
  • An LGBTQ+ youth app and website to connect and support those with similar experiences through chat rooms, bots, fun enrichment activities and resources
  • A mealworm larvae-filled box that breaks down non-recyclable plastic waste, using sensors to monitor for optimal decomposition conditions

About the Amazon Longitude Explorer Prize

The Amazon Longitude Explorer Prize received more than 150 entries this year from over 500 young people across the UK. Finalists were selected by a panel of expert judges including Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, President of techUK, Lauren Kisser, Director at Amazon’s Development Centre in Cambridge and DeepMind’s Obum Ekeke, Global Lead for University Relations & Education Partnerships.

It will be a privilege to watch these innovative ideas blossom with support from industry experts.
Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, President of techUK

The finalists will be connected to an expert mentor from Amazon and other industry-leading organisations. They will receive mentoring on topics such as data analytics, software engineering, robotics, and app development to create prototypes of their concepts to help determine the winner this July.

Finalists will also be invited to participate in the Amazon Longitude Explorer Prizes’ Enterprise Academy business day workshops and will also receive one-to-one technology support from FireTech UK – the UK’s leading technology course provider for children aged 8-17.

In July, the winning team will be awarded £20,000 for its school or youth group, with three teams of runners-up to be awarded £5,000 each for their school or youth group. The public will also be given the chance to choose their favourite design in the People’s Choice Award in June, the winner of which will receive £5,000 prize money for its school or youth group.

Builders, inventors and innovators

This year, more than half (58%) of all entrants to the 2021 Longitude Explorer Prize are young women. Following the 2020 prize, 93% of the finalists said they would like to pursue a career in STEM.

In addition, 98% of 2020 finalists said they were inspired to pursue entrepreneurialism and 91% of young people taking part in the 2020 prize said they learned new remote working skills as a result. Among teachers and youth leaders who entered a team in 2020, 100% said they would enter a team in the future.

Lauren Kisser, Director at Amazon’s Development Centre in Cambridge, and a judge for the Amazon Longitude Explorer Prize, said: “Supporting young people to discover a passion for – and ultimately consider future careers in – STEM is more vital than ever, and it’s fantastic to see such great engagement in the prize across the country. It’s been a joy to see what the nation’s next generation of inventors and innovators have come up with, especially under such unusual and challenging circumstances this year.”

“The Amazon Longitude Explorer prize is part of Amazon Future Engineer,” Lauren adds, “our comprehensive childhood-to-career programme to inspire, educate and enable children and young adults from lower-income backgrounds to discover computer science and engineering. We’re looking forward to getting started with the mentorship programme and seeing the finalists’ ideas come to life.”

Maddy Kavanagh, Education and Skills Programme Manager for Nesta Challenges, said: “It’s a privilege to unveil the 40 inspirational teams that have been shortlisted for this year’s Amazon Longitude Explorer Prize. We’ve been inundated with so many innovative entries, despite the immense pressures faced by young people, teachers and youth workers alike. Schools are working extraordinarily hard to ensure students excel after lockdown, and youth groups continue to provide vital extra-curricular services and support. We can’t wait to see our teams develop their ideas into real-world prototypes in the next three months.”

Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, President of techUK will also be judging the Amazon Longitude Explorer Prize: “The submissions have been really innovative in the way they have applied technology and real-world promise and bringing with them potential for huge impact. It will be a privilege to watch these innovative ideas blossom with support from industry experts, alongside the passion, skills and confidence of the talented young people taking part.”

Find out more about the Amazon Longitude Explorer Prize.