Balsam, a 10-year old boy from Croydon, has been crowned the winner of the 2019 Equinor Young Imagineers competition with his amazingly futuristic idea: the ‘Microspider’. Designed to surgically repair and cure parts of the brain, Balsam’s micro robotic ‘spiders’ would be intelligently programmed to work together inside the body, in groups of 40-60, operating to prevent brain damage or fix injuries caused by trauma or illness.
This year’s competition run in partnership with the Science Museum saw a record 2,719 children, aged 7-14 years, from across the UK, submit their ideas in answer to the challenge: what would you create to help make tomorrow’s world a better place? Ten children were shortlisted and were invited to present their ideas to a panel of judges in front of a live audience at a fun-packed ‘Finalists’ Day’ held at the Science Museum on Saturday.
Talking about the inspiration behind his invention and how it felt to be announced as the winner of Equinor Young Imagineers 2019, Balsam said: “My grandmother sadly suffers from epilepsy, so that was personally for me what inspired me to try to create something that might be able to help fix that and other conditions or injuries that affect the brain.
“I’m really thrilled to win the competition, it was difficult, it took some time and effort to try to think of the idea and how it could work, but I tried to put lots of effort in and do my best. It’s been amazing to win.”
Barry Fitzgerald, ‘superhero scientist’ and one of the competition judges, commented on Balsam’s win, saying: “I have to say I thought this was an amazing invention, such creative thinking, to create little tiny robotic spiders that could go inside your body and maybe repair parts of your brain. It’s a brilliant, brilliant invention.”
Also on the judging panel, Wind Farmer Developer at Equinor, Sophie Banham, added: “Young Imagineers is all about celebrating the UK’s most creative young minds in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and what we saw on the day from all of our 10 finalists, blew all the judges away.
“What can I say about our winner, Balsam? Phenomenal, really innovative and an absolutely great winner to have this year.”
Other finalists presenting to the judges included Aamena, aged 13 from Middlesex, who was awarded a ‘Highly Commended’ certificate for her idea ‘Dementia Friend’, a type of smart-wristband that would be programmed and tailored to help make life easier and more manageable for those with dementia.
The panel also heard from Maggie (10) from Dorset, with her idea ‘Fly CP’ – a roaming CCTV camera device disguised as a fly; Yingying (9) from Oxford, with her idea ‘Amazon Gardener’ – an invention to help tackle deforestation; Kate (8) from South Shields, with her invention ‘Ellie the Elephant’ – a technology enhanced soft toy to boost mental health and wellbeing; Shriya (10) from Croydon with ‘TrEnergy Trees’ – hydroponic artificial trees to help make cities more sustainable; Morgan (12) from Durham with ‘Medi Drone’ – an adaptation of a drone to create a vital medical tool; James (11) from Oxford with ‘ONDRP’ – a rocket-style pod that orbits the Earth and delivers urgent relief in natural disasters; Daniel (10) from North London with ‘Swift’ – a solar powered jet bag; and Samuel (8) from Northampton with ‘Robo Jellyfish’ – a robot that tackles the plastic pollution crisis in our oceans.
Speaking at the Finalists’ Day, hosted by science broadcaster Dallas Campbell, author, TV presenter and Young Imagineers judge Konnie Huq said: “I know it sounds like a cliché but I would have loved it if they could have all been winners and in truth, to get this far, making it to the final 10 out of so many thousands of entries, they are winners. For the panel to agree on one overall winner, it really was tough. Huge congratulations to Balsam.”
Digital entrepreneur and a trustee of the Science Museum Group, Lopa Patel MBE, who has sat on the judging panel for all three years of the competition since it launched, commented: “The passion that all these young people have shown for STEM is what has impressed and inspired me the most. It is wonderful to see and we must all play our part in continuing to further ignite that spark and encourage the next generation to explore the possibilities offered by studying and working in the sciences. Progress and pursuits in STEM are how we as a society can make tomorrow’s world a better place.”
The winning invention will now be created as a 3D model and exhibited inside the Science Museum in early 2020. The winner will also receive a bespoke-designed experience day at the museum, an annual pass to Wonderlab: The Equinor Gallery at the Science Museum and 50 copies of the book ‘This Book Thinks You’re A Scientist’ for their school. All finalists received a selection of goodies as runners-up in the competition.
Young Imagineers is an annual competition run as an extension of Equinor’s partnership with the Science Museum, which includes title sponsorship of its interactive gallery Wonderlab: The Equinor Gallery. This immersive space is designed to ignite curiosity, fuel imagination and inspire children to see the world around them in new and exciting ways.
Previous Equinor Young Imagineers competition winners include Millie with her idea for a ‘Solar Powered Pollution Sucking Robot Pigeon’ (2018) and Finlay with his ‘Hover Wheelchair’ invention (2017).