Sheffield students reach national final of a new education initiative launched by Bill Gates


Two students from Sheffield High School have been victorious in reaching the grand finals of the Youth Grand Challenges – a new education initiative by the British Science Association and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The competition, which was launched by Bill Gates in October 2016, has called on young people aged 11-to-19-years to use science and technology to help solve global health and development challenges.

Lucy Pirzada, aged 15 is through in the Silver Category and Eva Koffi, aged 18 has secured her place in the Gold Category.

They wowed the judges with their innovative projects to help tackle some of the biggest challenges in global health and development.

Lucy’s project addresses the lack of information around vaccinations, identifying the impact this has on both the individual and wider populations. She created a website to help communicate the challenges of vaccinating in developing countries, such as a lack of education, transportation issues and storage complications.

Eva’s project addressed Guinea Worm Disease, which is life changing and a sign of poor sanitation and water filtration. She looked at the problem in detail, coming up with solutions to further its eradication effort.

The students from Sheffield were shortlisted as one of the top five in their categories after producing a video to describe their project, securing their place in the final round of judging to be held in London in December. They’ll be part of the select group of 20 student STEM projects that have made it to the concluding stages of the competition, in which thousands of students took part.

The judges in this final round include, Konnie Huq, TV presenter; Dr James Logan, TV presenter and academic from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; and Alexandra Rutishauser-Perera, Head of Nutrition at Action Against Hunger UK.

This year’s theme is infectious diseases and thousands of students from across the UK participated, developing projects that tackled a whole host of challenges around topics such as mosquito-borne diseases, transporting medicines in the developing world, and sanitation.

Prizes up for grabs in the Gold category include a travel bursary of £1500 and a fully-funded place to attend the London International Youth Science Forum, a two-week science enrichment programme.

Winners of the Silver category will get an outdoor weekend adventure with Anturus to gain experience as a field scientist and a visit to a research institute of their choosing.

Katherine Mathieson, Chief Executive of the British Science Association, which runs the Youth Grand Challenges, said: “I’d like to extend huge congratulations to all the finalists of the first ever Youth Grand Challenges Competition, and commiserations to those we had to say goodbye to at this stage. Each project is the result of hours of hard work, ingenuity and dedication, making the judges’ decisions very difficult. We look forward to the grand finals event in London this December and wish all the teams the very best of luck.”

The grand final will take place in London on 7 December and will be hosted by TV presenter Rick Edwards. During the day, students will get the opportunity to network with industry professionals and talk about their career ambitions, as well as showing off their projects to the judges one last time.