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Starring roles: alumni aim to inspire current pupils with a love for space

Five veterans of QE’s past national and international successes in space design competitions returned to Barnet to help stage an inter-school Galactic Challenge.

Aadil Kara (OE 2010–2017), who has just completed the second year of a Physics degree at Imperial College, is currently Chair of the Galactic Challenge (GC) – a regional competition for younger pupils and a sister competition to the UK Space Design Competition (UKSDC). In his final year at QE, Aadil progressed from the UKSDC to the International Space Settlement Design Competition, hosted by NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

Aadil, worked with QE’s Head of Physics, Jonathan Brooke, to help the School host a Galactic Challenge for secondary schools in London.

“Old Elizabethans are currently playing a key role in the organisation of both the UKSDC and the GC,” said Mr Brooke. “I’m hugely impressed by their willingness to give up their time to support these competitions which give children from schools across the country experience of working in large teams under a tight deadline – a taste of the challenges associated with professional life that are difficult to replicate in the classroom.”

Helping Aadil and Mr Brooke were Aadil’s QE contemporaries and former UKSDC co-competitors, Neelesh Ravichandran, Harikesan Baskaran and Sam Bayney, as well as David Dubinksy, who attended QE from 2012–2016. Neelesh, Harikesan and Sam all served as Coordinators on the day, while David, who, like Aadil, reached the international stages of UKSDC in his year, was the volunteer CEO for one of the competing teams, or ‘companies’.

The Galactic Challenge is a space industry simulation challenge for students aged 10-14. Children design a settlement in space within just a few hours, competing against other teams, as well as the clock.

At QE, in addition to the School’s own Year 7 company, named Columbus Aviation, there were entries from: Dame Alice Owen’s School; The Charter School, North Dulwich; The Henrietta Barnett School and The Latymer School.

Aadil said: “We run GC competitions throughout the country firstly to stimulate students’ interests in STEM from the early ages of secondary education, and secondly to help them develop ‘soft skills’, including team-working and interpersonal skills. Having first participated in the process in the Sixth Form, it was a pleasure to be able to bring the competition back to the School.”

The ‘companies’ worked to complete a task set by the fictional Foundation Society. In the morning, they were given a Request for Proposal (RFP) co-written by Aadil that reflects a typical design brief in the space engineering industry; they then spent the day producing designs in response, assisted by a volunteer ‘CEO’ for each company.

The scenario involved them jumping forward to 2069, coinciding with the celebration of the centenary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Students produced designs for Armstrong, the first holiday resort on the moon, named in honour of Neil Armstrong, famously the first person to step on to its surface in 1969.

The Armstrong resort had to include a commemorative area around the Apollo 11 landing site and to host trips from tourists visiting from other settlements around Earth’s orbit. Competitors also had to find a way to make the lower half of the Apollo 11 Lunar Model (which remains on the moon’s surface) the centrepiece of a tourist attraction, whilst considering how to conserve the site.

The companies’ design proposals considered almost all aspects of the design of a futuristic space settlement, from the activities offered to tourists to the methods of power generation.

At the end of the day, the companies presented their work in ten minutes to an audience of parents, their peers, and a judging panel. In the presentations, students suggested ideas including: settlements made out of recycled materials; rearing rabbits on the moon, and Earthrise viewing platforms, with the home QE team suggesting lunar bungee-jumping. The winning team was a combined company – Astrodyne Delta – drawn from Dame Alice Owen’s School and The Charter School, North Dulwich.

Afterwards, Neelesh, who has come to the end of his second year at Imperial, where he is reading Electrical and Electronic Engineering, said: “Volunteering at UKSDC is a truly rewarding experience. The enthusiasm, curiosity and ingenuity of the participants is awe-inspiring and has served to remind me of why I study engineering. Both these competitions are a test of character and imagination, for volunteers and participants alike.”

Harikesan has finished the second year of a Mechanical Engineering/Computational Engineering and Design at Southampton. He starts a placement with Rolls-Royce Motor Cars this month. “Volunteering at the UKSDC and GC competitions provides an invaluable opportunity to encourage students to see STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics] in its true colours.”

David, who has just finished the third year of an Aeronautical Engineering degree at Durham University, still recalls the inspiration he drew from the UKSDC himself: “Taking part in the competition sparked a strong obsession with space; I was drawn by the utopian, fantastical designs of future space settlements and enjoyed imagining life in such a future. I opened a space society at QE, which some OEs may remember, and attended the annual Student Space Conference in Year 12, a fantastic event organised by the same parent organisation as the Galactic Challenge, the UK Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (UK SEDS). At Durham, I’ve also joined the university’s SEDS branch where we had some great networking with brave local startups and have helped organise trips to the Student Space Conference. My first internship was in a small electronics company, as it was technically in the space sector.”

Although the internship proved to be a disappointing experience, during his time there he was able to re-focus on what he really wanted – “to pursue unprecedented and utopian technology design” – which led him into the field he is currently targeting, namely “minimal-fuel, lighter-than-air travel, in other words engineering modern blimps and airships!” It is, reflects David, “all a long chain of events from saying ‘yes’ to my friend asking me if I wanted to fill an empty space in the first QE UKSDC team, which I turned down at first because I was nervous!”

Sam has finished the second year of a Medicine degree at Southampton. He said: “It’s good to see kids taking an interest in these types of projects at this age – it develops skills they will need to solve the global problems facing us in the near future.”

Spoken like a champion: sixth-formers win oral presentation prize in international technology competition

A QE team impressed the judges with their presentation skills as they explained how their glider drone design could help save black rhinoceroses from extinction.

Judges at the live finals of the International STEM Youth Innovation Competition at the Royal Air Force Museum in Colindale, London, unanimously agreed that QE’s Year 12 Rhinodrive team should win the Oral Presentation Award.

The competition involved several elements, from the judging of presentations conducted by industry and conservation experts, to the actual flying of a drone, where the challenge facing the teams was to survey 15 species in their simulated natural habitat.

Head of Technology Michael Noonan said: “It had been a long journey requiring great dedication for our boys to even reach the international finals, so they were exhilarated to be there, even though the standard of competition was very tough indeed.”

“The boys performed admirably, using the drone technology to spot all but one animal on their survey – a pesky snake camouflaged into a tree branch!”

The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) competition, run by the British International Education Association (BIEA), drew entries from schools in countries including China, the United States, Macau, Poland and Bosnia & Herzegovina. Its theme was Fighting Extinction Using Drone Technology.

The team comprised Deeps Gandhi, Aryan Jain, Simon Sherriff, Ben Domb and Tarun Bhaskaran. They secured their place in the international finals partly because they opted to design and build their own drone using parts which they 3D-printed themselves, rather than buying an off-the-shelf, proprietary machine, as many other teams did. “This set them in an élite group, along with a gifted and talented academy team from Palo Alto, California,” said Mr Noonan.

Even more impressively, they designed and built the drone while adhering very strictly to their £100 allocated budget, again, unlike many of the other teams.

However, what had been an advantage earlier in the competition would prove to be a challenge in the finals, as the demonstration flight at the start of the day’s competition used the very same drone that many of the teams were using, thus giving QE’s competitors the opportunity to pick up tips by observing the trial flight. The QE team nevertheless performed well, Mr Noonan stated.

“After the judges visited, the boys were in a confident mood that the presentation of their ideas and professional layout of their resources had set them in good stead.” That confidence proved justified when the team’s name was one of the first to be read out as the presentations began.

And although naturally disappointed to miss out on the top prize of £5,000, there were no real hard feelings, as Mr Noonan explained: “A Bosnian team won this accolade for an incredible performance, despite challenges of funding and lack of facilities. The boys felt this was well deserved, and simply revelled in what had been a great experience.”

Team member Deeps said: “Participating in this competition has not only allowed us to think about our ability to impact global issues such as conservation through STEM, but has also taught us key skills such as time management, teamwork and communication.”

After the awards ceremony, the boys headed to Waterloo Pier to board the London Belle barge and then spent an enjoyable evening on the Thames in the company of the judges and other participants.

Birmingham bound! Trio dazzle judges to win place in national finals of Technology competition

Three Year 9 boys are through to the national finals of the Big Bang competition after their idea for a hi-tech device to replace the white sticks used by the blind impressed both the judges and the visiting crowds at the London regional heat.

The boys’ Device to Aid the Visually Impaired is an ergonomic headset housing complicated circuitry that uses object-detection algorithms to warn users of hazards lurking nearby.

Aryan Jindal, Bhunit Santhiramoulesan and Ashwin Sridhar made full use of the opportunity to showcase their work and discuss it with spectators stopping by their stand at the Big Bang London Central event hosted by Westminster Kingsway College at Kings Cross. The Big Bang programme comprises a national Big Bang competition and a series of events across the country, all aimed at bringing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) to life for younger people.

Head of Technology Michael Noonan said: “The students created this device in our dedicated design area and they hope the project will help provide a cheap and affordable alternative to the stick and other measures that visually impaired people are currently offered.”

“The device proved to be a major hit among spectators and judges alike, so it was perhaps unsurprising that the boys succeeded in being selected for the Big Bang UK Young Scientists and Engineers competition next year, where they will present to thousands of visitors in the NEC in Birmingham.

“Suitably impressed by the demonstration of the technology, one computer scientist from a major company even left his contact details with regard to future collaboration: the company is looking at using the same type of technology in CCTV in large railway stations to help monitor who is using the facility and to detect potential threats to public safety.”

One of the trio, Aryan, said afterwards: “This was my first STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics] enrichment activity outside of School and I loved it! I was really nervous before the judges visited, but by the time we had to speak with them it was fine, and by the time the second panel came it was more like a conversation than a presentation. I can’t wait to go to the national finals and we will try to develop our work even further for this.”

Also displaying their work at Big Bang London were a team of Year 12 students on the eve of their appearance at the finals of the International STEM Youth Innovation Competition at the Royal Air Force Museum in Colindale, London. Deeps Gandhi, Aryan Jain, Simon Sherriff, Ben Domb and Tarun Bhaskaran secured their place there by designing and building a glider drone to help in the conservation of black rhinos.

“It proved to be a useful exercise, as the boys had the chance to speak with fellow competitors and mentors from around the world, as well as preparing the final touches to their presentation for the following day and staging a practice flight,” said Mr Noonan.

High-flying drone team wins place in final of international competition

A QE Sixth Form team competes this week in the finals of a new international STEM education competition after impressing judges with their plans to use technology in the struggle to protect endangered animals.

They will be up against teams from all over the world competing to show how drones could be deployed to conserve species threatened with extinction.

The boys brought in advanced Mathematics and used 3D printing and complex electronics in developing their entry proposal and making their own glider drone.

The finals of the International STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) Youth Innovation Competition are being held at the Royal Air Force Museum, in London.

Head of Technology Michael Noonan said: “I am proud of the team and of the hard work they have put into this competition. From the initial selection of animal species to the creation of the report and to the development of the UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] according to their designs, it was all the result of the team’s own little-by-little exploration and progression.”

The competition is organised by the British International Education Association (BIEA). Run for the first time last year, it was open only to British pupils, attracting entries from more than 2,000 schools. This year, it has been opened up to schools from around the world.

The 2019 theme is Fighting extinction using drone technology. There is a first prize of £5,000 for the team with the highest overall score.

QE’s team, who are all from Year 12, are in the 15-17 year-old age category. The team comprises: Tarun Bhaskaran, Ben Domb, Deeps Gandhi, Aryan Jain and Simon Sherriff.

The team initially drew up a long list of endangered animals and explored the role drones could play in protecting them. As a result of these discussions, they decided to develop glider drones.

For their choice of subject, they wanted an animal with a large distribution area, so picked the black rhinoceros. Further research followed, as a result of which the team embraced military surveillance techniques to monitor black rhino populations effectively, while also using a complex equation to calculate the appropriate pixel resolution for the final design.

They decided to build the required drone themselves. This meant they could show off their ideas to best effect, but naturally made the process more challenging.

To meet this challenge, the team divided themselves into three sections and worked separately before coming together to provide the finished entry. One group was responsible for electronics, another for the video and a third for the fuselage. The electronics group focused on providing the control system and system compatibility; the video group made the video submission, wrote scripts, arranged 3D printing and coordinated the budget, and the fuselage group designed the chassis and structure of the drone.

The competition’s final deadline coincided with School examinations. This left the boys with some tricky time-management issues, which they resolved by drawing up a detailed division of work, all carefully scheduled outside of examination study time. The 14-hour days paid off when they duly submitted the report on time and then heard that they were among the finalists.

“The best day of my life”: QE at the VEX Robotics national and world finals – full report

Having swept all before them at the UK national VEX Robotics finals, a record four junior teams set off for the world championships in Kentucky, together with a newly formed senior team.

And great as their achievement was in qualifying for the world championships, there were still greater triumphs to come, as the junior (IQ) teams picked up a string of awards, with one of them – Technogear – becoming the first-ever UK team to reach the Teamwork Challenge finals, held in the 20,000-seater Freedom Hall.

This year’s competitors were building on the success of 2018, when the awards won in Kentucky by QE included the first-ever world title – the Excellence Award – to be won by a UK school.

QE’s Head of Technology Michael Noonan, who accompanied the boys to the US this year, said afterwards: “Although Technogear narrowly missed out on an overall podium finish, this couldn’t detract from their high spirits, nor from the immense pride felt by mentors, VEX UK staff and members of other UK teams in their incredible achievement in winning their division and reaching the Teamwork Challenge finals.

“All the QE students felt that their experiences in Louisville, the Kentucky Exposition Center and the Freedom hall were once-in-a-lifetime,” added Mr Noonan, who had himself earlier been crowned Teacher of the Year at the VEX Robotics UK national finals in Telford. “Having paused to enjoy the rollercoasters and fun of the Kentucky Kingdom amusement park, they have already started planning for next year!”

Mr Noonan also asked Technogear drivers Yash Shah and Anubhav Rathore how they felt while they were waiting for the final results to come in. “This is the best day of my life. I don’t care if we win or not; this experience alone has been incredible, and incredibly beats that of winning the Excellence Award last year!” said Yash, while Anubhav expressed similar sentiments: “It doesn’t really matter if we win or not. Just getting here, to meet all of these people from around the world and share our experiences and make new friendships, is reward enough.”

The QE teams’ path to Kentucky was confirmed after their barnstorming performances at the national finals in Telford in March. Eight teams (three from the senior EDR competition, for pupils in Years 10–13 and five IQ teams, for Years 5-9) competed: the EDR teams were APEX, Cobra and HYBRID; the IQ teams were Gearsquad, Hyperdrive, ECHO, Technogear and Supercharge.

“After a tough first day, all three EDR teams were excellently placed for qualification, with HYBRID and APEX in particular in commanding positions,” said Mr Noonan. In the later stages, however, the EDR teams found the competition tough. Nevertheless, Team Cobra won the Innovate Award, when “their unusual ‘side-shooting’ design caught the judges’ eye”. It was HYBRID, however, who came away with the top prize – the overall Excellence Award. This, Mr Noonan said, was “for a terrific performance in all aspects of the competition, ranging from judging interviews and coding an efficient autonomous routine to overall performance in the teamwork championship”. This award sealed the team’s entry to the world championships for the second year running.

Starting a day later, the IQ competitors were spurred on by the success of their older Elizabethan counterparts. “There was an air of trepidation amongst the Queen Elizabeth’s IQ teams when they arrived at Telford, as the British season leading up to these finals had been highly competitive, and the teams had never found it as difficult to accrue regional awards. However, it was clear from the outset that the teams from Barnet were intent on changing that fact, with some of the highest scores of the day set right from the outset by Gearsquad (30, 28) and Supercharge (27).”

In the final rounds at Telford, “the greatest shock of the entire competition” occurred, when a pairing of QE’s ECHO with a team from Highgate School scored 38 points, thus setting a new UK record and equalling the current world record.

The last day ended in triumph for QE, with IQ teams from the School taking first, second and third places in the Teamwork competition and also winning the Skills championship. In addition: ECHO and Supercharge both won an Amaze Award; Gearsquad won the Build Award; Hyperdrive won the Judges Award, and Technogear took both the Sportsmanship and Design awards. Four IQ teams qualified for the world finals in Louisville – ECHO, Gearsquad, Supercharge and Technogear.

At EDR level, examination commitments meant that some of the HYBRID team were unable to make the trip to Kentucky, so boys from the APEX team were drafted in as replacements. “As if competing against 600 of the world’s finest teams (the equivalent of the top 1%) was not enough of a challenge, the prospect of forming a new team with just one month to go added to the overall difficulty,” said Mr Noonan.

On arrival in Louisville, after enjoying the ceremonial Parade of Nations, the new team threw themselves enthusiastically into the inter-team co-operation that is an important facet of VEX Robotics. “The students made their way to competition on the first day and began to strategise (sometimes in Mandarin and Spanish) with other teams from around the globe.”

After a successful first day of practice, day two brought mixed fortunes – won 2, lost 2 – and day three brought a three-game losing streak after an initial victory. “To their immense credit, they rallied and recorded two excellent wins in their final two games, finishing with a 5-6 win:loss ratio. “The students were not despondent but proud of their efforts, especially when the judges bestowed the Service Award on the team, recognising their efforts both in mentoring younger teams in school and in the technology ‘Showcase.’ This represents the first award won by this school at EDR level in the World Championships.”

With its record contingent at IQ level, QE contributed to the general excitement felt among the UK teams. “Having attended the World Championships last year, Technogear were well placed to pass on their experience of the event to their less-experienced school mates, and an overall great air of co-operation was evident amongst the QE teams,” said Mr Noonan.

Initial results were patchy, with ECHO’s 30 points the highlight. On the second day, Gearsquad battled through some tough fixtures before combining with girls from The Henrietta Barnett School to finish the day with “a fantastic 38”. Mr Noonan said: “As day two closed, the QE teams were ranked in or around the top 20, with the exception of Technogear, who were temporarily languishing at 59th.”

Day three saw Technogear bounce back in style: “Paired with Dragon Tech. from California (an early favourite for world glory), they equalled the world record with a seismic 41 points!” – a performance that led to their ranking instantly soaring to 15th. “No doubt inspired by their actions, all the other QE teams opened in similarly strong fashion.”

From that position, all the QE teams could theoretically have gone on to qualify for the final stages, but for ECHO, Gearsquad and Supercharge, it was not to be, although ECHO were able to take solace in an extremely strong season which left them ranked as the world’s 19th highest team for skills.

Paired once again with Dragon Tech., Technogear continued to score highly. In the middle match of the divisional final, their 40-point tally proved decisive. “The nervous wait watching the remaining final games of the division proved difficult for Technogear and the Queen Elizabeth’s teams, but ultimately their score stood, and they were crowned champions of the Arts Division: they were heading to the World Teamwork Finals in the 20,000 seater-Freedom Hall and a worldwide audience of many thousands on the livestream!”

Once in this daunting arena, where the huge audience included the other QE teams and staff, “the cool and collected demeanour” of both Technogear and their Californian allies was impressive, Mr Noonan reported. They were, he said, perhaps unfortunate to score only 33 after a valiant battle on the competition floor. “This left QE in 3rd place, and with a chance of the podium, but ultimately the final two would outscore them, leaving Technogear in fifth place.”

Technogear not only won a Champions Trophy for winning their division, but also took an Innovate Award. Supercharge picked up the Build Award for their division, while Gearsquad picked up the Sportsmanship Award. This was just reward for Gearsquad’s “fantastic attitude”, Mr Noonan reported – an attitude reflected in the comments of Gearsquad team member Darren Lee: “We said that we’d congratulate our drivers and our partners’ drivers after every game, regardless of whether we set a world record or had a tough score to take, and that proved to be the best part of the experience.”

During the trip, the QE boys took the opportunity to see attractions including the picturesque Waterfront Park, the Muhammad Ali Museum and the Louisville Slugger baseball bat factory, while also enjoying the spectacle of a baseball game between the local Louisville Bats and the Durham Bulls.

  • The EDR teams at the national finals were:
    • APEX – Nirmay Jadhav, Swattik Das, Ansh Jaiswal, Siddh Patel, George Sewell and Lucas Lu, all from Year 10
    • Cobra – Jimmy Ou, Leo Yang, Akram Ahmad and Mahdi Dhirani, all from Year 12
    • HYBRID – Dillan Shah, of Year 10; Alex Woodcock, of Year 10; Kayan Intwala, of Year 10; Deshraam Ganeshamoorthy, of Year 11; James Tan, of Year 11; Daniel Radzik-Rahman, of Year 11, and Devin Karia, of Year 11.
  • The IQ teams were:
    • Gearsquad – Niyam Shah, Jai Akilesh Kaza Venkata, Darren Lee, Nathan Woodcock and Dipesh Dhavala, all from Year 8
    • Hyperdrive – Shivam Singh, Aadarsh Aggarwal, Ashish Yeruva, Aarush Verma, Vedant Shah, Maxwell Johnson and Varun Srirambhatla, all from Year 8
    • ECHO – Heemy Kalam, Bhunit Santhiramouselan, Indy Potluri, Akhil Walia and Abhiraj Singh, all from Year 9
    • Technogear – Dylan Domb, Yash Shah, Anubhav Rathore, Ashwin Sridhar and Anish Rana, all from Year 9
    • Supercharge – Arya Bhatt, Pranav Chawla, Raghav Rajaganesh, Chakshu Chopra, Frank Zhang, all from Year 9.
Professor speaks to QE boys about the fascinating, complex future of AI in education

A leading academic expert on Artificial Intelligence set out both its huge potential for education – and some of the looming pitfalls.

Rose Luckin, Professor of Learner Centred Design at UCL’s Knowledge Lab, took as her starting point in the Senior School lecture assembly the need for deep human understanding: “AI is the inter-disciplinary study of intelligence – if we don’t understand intelligence, we can’t automate it.”

Together with educationalist Sir Anthony Seldon and entrepreneur Priya Lakhani, she is one of the leaders of the new Institute for Ethical AI in Education. Headmaster Neil Enright was among those who attended its launch this month at Speaker’s House in the Palace of Westminster.

During her lecture at QE, she highlighted ways in which Artificial Intelligence might obviate an impending global shortage of teachers – an estimated 69 million more will be needed by 2030. It could, for example, be used in teaching larger groups, releasing human teachers to focus on particular aspects of the curriculum with particular children.

However, Professor’s Luckin’s work takes in not only how AI can be used to assist human education, but also how education itself may need to change in response to the new technology. And in her lecture to the boys and staff, she said that, since AI can learn information faster and more accurately than humans can, there is a need to move beyond a focus on subject knowledge. This, she acknowledged, was already being done at QE, with the School’s emphasis on skills such as problem-solving and on synthesising and understanding the meaning of data.

She pointed to some of the ethical issues presented by the new technology. AI is built upon “big data”, she told the assembly, and it was not only in the area of data security that there were concerns, but also in how representative the data used is. There have been cases where AI has delivered skewed results, such as facial recognition only recognising certain ethnicities, or has shown a gender bias in its decisions. “We need to be appropriately sceptical,” she said – careful about what is automated ensuring that companies and technologies are held to account. “We need detailed explanatory answers when being presented with a seemingly nice solution to something.”

There were specific issues in education which AI was particularly well-suited to tackle: speech recognition might be deployed to help people with disabilities, she said, noting that Google has predicted that developments in speech recognition will be more significant than driverless cars. Yet doing so was no easy matter, because of the ways in which voices change.

In a question-and-answer session with the boys after the lecture, Professor Luckin delved into: issues of AI and consciousness; understanding what knowledge is and where it comes from; the need for AI that can explain its decisions, and how the education sector should be engaged in the development of the technology. She also explained the importance of inter-subjectivity in teaching and learning to make the best use of AI – that is, achieving the right blend between human interaction and machine-learning.

In thanking Professor Luckin, Year 13 pupil John Tan said: “Whilst we live in a society characterised by technology and technological advance, her talk emphasised the importance of the human connection in education.”

In addition to her work in education, Professor Luckin is also working with the Department of Health on a project commissioned by current Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt (in his previous role as Health Secretary) into how AI will impact and can help the NHS.

A copy of Professor Luckin’s book, Machine Learning and Human Intelligence, which was published in June, was donated to The Queen’s Library.

Mission possible: boys take on the task of solving a real-world problem

Boys in Year 8 pitted their talents against each other in a competitive Dragons’ Den-style challenge, first designing an innovative product and then pitching it at the end of the day.

The event, held as part of the School’s Enrichment Week, aimed to get boys using skills in the STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics).

They had to design a product to solve a real-world problem, while also considering their marketing and business proposition. To create their prototypes, the participants were allocated a budget which they could use to buy the basic materials (such as card, tape and wooden sticks) from a ‘market’ in the hall.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “This event encompassed problem-solving and combining knowledge of science, product design, technology, finance and business acumen to come up with a new product that was a practical proposition – and all in the space of a day. The boys successfully produced some very interesting and promising proposals.”

All boys in Year 8 took part in the challenge, which was split across two days. It was led by Simon Kettle, Executive Director of STEMworks, a not-for-profit company dedicated to promoting STEM. Simon also judged the boys’ projects.

Afterwards, Simon said: “The students were given the opportunity to design and develop ideas that use some new, cutting-edge technologies. I talked through a few new materials and the associated technology – and the students did the rest. They came up with a wide range of new product ideas, with the best being presented in the Dragons’ Den.”

The winners’ product on the first day, which they named SOLAcharge, used small portable solar panels to charge a mobile phone. The second-day winners designed Simon’s particular favourite – SafeSensors, a sports helmet which not only protected the head but also had built-in impact sensors that could notify the team coach or doctor of any impact that would require a player to be treated or substituted (in cases of concussion, for example).

Other ideas included mobile phones with in-built smoke alarms, smart baths (that would self-regulate temperature and could not over-fill), and even a helmet capable of styling the wearer’s hair!

Meeting with a great mind: QE team learn about a mathematical maestro while performing strongly at national challenge finals

Four QE boys acquitted themselves very well at the finals of a national Mathematics team competition.

Having first reached the Team Maths Challenge national final by winning their regional heat in March, this year’s entrants built on recent successes by QE, improving on last year’s 17th place by coming 11th out of the 88 finalists. The team, which was drawn from Years 8 and 9, achieved a score of 182 points out of 232.

The UK Mathematics Trust event included a round devoted to Leonhard Euler. Born in Basel, Switzerland, Euler is considered one of the 18th century’s most pre-eminent mathematicians and is known as the ‘father of graph theory’. He notably used graphs when he presented and solved the famous Seven Bridges of Königsberg Problem, demonstrating that it was impossible to devise a journey that would cross all seven bridges in the Prussian city of Königsberg (now Kaliningrad in Russia) only once. Euler also studied topics including number theory, combinatorics (an area of Mathematics concerned primarily with counting), geometry, mathematical analysis, as well as mechanics, fluid theory and music theory.

The team had won the regional heat in March, thus qualifying, for the national final of the competition at the Royal Horticultural Halls. The overall winner at the challenge was Westminster Under School.

Assistant Head of Mathematics Wendy Fung said: “The boys did very well; to reach the National Final is an incredible achievement in itself, as 1,742 teams entered this year’s event.”

In addition to the poster round focusing on Euler, there were the following activity rounds:

  • Group circus, which involved working on practical Mathematics problems
  • Relay race – a combination of speed across the room and speed at solving problems
  • Cross-number challenge, similar to a crossword, but with numbers
  • Shuttle, which is a series of mini-relays against the clock.

Calculators were not permitted.

Team captain, Shimaq-Ahamed Sakeel Mohamed, of Year 9, took part alongside Bhunit Santhiramoulesan and Agrim Sharma, of Year 8, and Dan Suciu, of Year 9. Shimaq-Ahamed said: “We had a great day at the challenge and really enjoyed working as a team.”

Kentucky triumph! QE’s senior teams’ memorable experiences at world robotics finals

QE senior roboteers achieved the best-ever result for a UK team after qualifying for the VEX EDR Robotics World Championships at their very first attempt.

The HYBRID Alpha team amassed five wins at the finals in Louisville, Kentucky, which are the culmination of a global event that has just been recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s largest robotics competition. And although they were unable to match the feat of QE’s junior boys in the parallel VEX IQ competition – who were crowned the UK’s first-ever world champions – they nonetheless returned from the US with a wealth of happy memories.

Year 10 pupil Deshraam Ganeshamoorthy, who was the robot driver for HYBRID Alpha, said their performance exceeded even their own expectations: “To finish with five wins and the highest rank of any UK team puts it all into perspective – the scale of the challenge when taking on the ‘super teams’ from other parts of the world. Hopefully what all the UK teams achieved here can spur on the next generation to success at the EDR championships.”

QE’s Head of Technology, Michael Noonan, who accompanied the teams together with Chemistry teacher Miss Katie Paske, added that the senior boys had “found the experience to be thoroughly enriching”.

The VEX EDR World Championships, which is open to pupils from Years 10–13 (or ‘high school’, in American parlance), bring together 600 élite teams from around the world, pitting against each other national champions from 46 different countries, as well as state champions from around the US.

Two senior QE teams took part, HYBRID Alpha and HYBRID Beta, both made up of boys from Years 10 and 12. Both teams qualified for the world championships after strong performances in regional and UK national championships, with Alpha winning the Excellence award at the regional finals at Stowe School as well as being crowned Nationals Skills Champions. Beta were a last-minute qualifier, winning the Design Award at the very end of the national championships in Telford.

Their trip to the US began with a 5.30am start and a long flight to Louisville, via Chicago. The following day was given over to rest and recuperation, with the boys taking in some of the local sights, such as the Muhammad Ali Centre and museum, and the Louisville Slugger factory, where the famous eponymous baseball bat is manufactured. The evening was spent in a flurry of preparation for the competition’s various challenges, or games.

The following day saw another early start, the boys rising at 6.30am to get the best possible chance to practise and to discuss their tactics with other teams with whom they were put in alliances. From that point on, the daily routine was a challenging one: 12 hours’ non-stop practice and competition, all of which involved communicating with other teams from around the world.

QE’s teams ended up being paired with, or competing against, teams from Bahrain, Lebanon, China, Japan, Canada and even war-torn Syria, as well as various state champions from around the US.

“Amid very strong competition the boys thrived, recording some of their highest scores of the season,” said Mr Noonan. “However, given the highly dedicated and highly funded approach of some of the US and China teams, even their best was at times not enough to turn the fixture.”

Nevertheless, Alpha distinguished themselves with their strong performance in a divisional match, becoming the first UK team ever to reach the final 16 at the world championship – beating another London team, from Fortismere School in Muswell Hill, to this honour by a matter of a few moments.

Alpha were paired for this match with a team from Rolling Hills, California. “Hybrid’s efforts were valiant, but excellent defence from the Chinese and Canadian combination saw their opponents win by a narrow margin of 115-92.”

Alpha’s disappointment at the loss was later rendered bittersweet when one of these two opposing teams went on to remain undefeated in all their remaining games and eventually be crowned World Teamwork Champions.

There were two more treats in store for the boys: they were able to see the unveiling of the newest robotics game, Turning Point, and they had just enough time to enjoy the thrilling rides and attractions of the Kentucky Kingdom theme park before heading for home.

  • The Alpha team comprised: Year 12 pupil Aadi Desai, with Deshraam Ganeshamoorthy, Bhargab Ghoshal, James Tan and Ukendar Vadivel, all from Year 10. Beta were: Dilan Sheth, of Year 12, together with Year 10 boys Sunay Challa, Devin Karia, Daniel Radzik-Rahman and Yai Sagolsem.
Best of the best: QE mathematicans shine at Olympiad

Year 11 boy Saruthan Seelan achieved a top-50 finish among élite mathematicians in his age group in this year’s nationwide Intermediate Olympiad, with four other pupils coming in the top 100.

Like Saruthan, Year 10 pupil James Tan and Year 9 boys Athiyan Chandramohan, Abhinav Santhiramohan and Dan Suciu all won medals for their performance, while Andy Kwak, of Year 9, was awarded a distinction certificate for coming in the top 25% nationally.

The six were among 27 boys from Years 9 to 11 who qualified for the Olympiad after performing strongly in the UK Mathematics Trust’s Intermediate Challenge. An additional 21 were awarded merit certificates.

Congratulating all of them, Assistant Head of Mathematics Wendy Fung said: “Solving any one of the problems set is an achievement and those who did more than that deserve corresponding praise.”

Saruthan said afterwards: “The Olympiad questions help me to extend my understanding of Maths.” James found solving the problems “very satisfying”, while Abhinav praised the “interesting maths” involved.

Nearly 1,700 students took part in the Olympiad. In each year group, the top 50 receive book prizes, the top 100 receive a medal and the top 25% receive a certificate of distinction.

In the Intermediate Challenge’s other follow-on round, the European Kangaroo, 135 QE boys from Years 9 to 11 took part, of whom 41 were awarded merit certificates. The Kangaroo’s high scorers in each year group were: Jamie Watkin-Rees (Year 11 – the second consecutive year that he has come top of his year group in this competition); Tanishq Mehta (Year 10), and Beuran Kannan (Year 9). Tanishq said he particularly enjoyed the “logical aspect of the questions”.

This is the 16th year that the UKMT has run the International Mathematical Olympiad and Kangaroo contests. The latter is promoted by Kangourou sans Frontières, an independent association promoting Mathematics among young people around the world: its name reflects the fact that the organisation was inspired by the Australian Mathematics Trust.

Three million students worldwide take part in the Kangaroo, usually including around 5,500 pupils invited to take part after sitting the UK Intermediate Challenge.