Students shape solutions to net zero at ‘Schools Cop’

Revolutionary engineering ideas proposed by secondary school students will be debated in classrooms across the UK as part of Tomorrow’s Engineers Week (8 to12 November 2021).

Proposals include ways that engineers can help efforts to improve biodiversity on land and at sea and the development of self-sufficient agri-biomes for farm animals to capture methane so it can be converted into an energy source.

The ideas were developed at a summit of more than 70 students from over 30 schools. Now, as part of the Tomorrow’s Engineers Week Schools COP, young people will debate the ideas in lessons taking place in classrooms across the UK and throughout this week.

Schools will then vote on their favourite proposals, with the results being announced and sent to Members of Parliament later in November.

The full list of engineering solutions students’ felt should be urgently developed: 

• Continue to invest more in renewable energy sources and expand on them to use on all buildings

• Planting more trees and rewilding of areas to increase biodiversity

• Improving insulation, retrofitting and reduce energy consumption in the home

• Ocean fertilisation to improve, for example, use of algae, microorganisms and carbon capture plants such as seaweed.

• Better recycling of plastics and use biopolymers to create plastics that are less harmful to the environment

• Support the development of smarter building design and construction

• Develop self-sufficient agri-biomes for animal farming to capture methane for it to be converted into energy sources

• Engineering fake meat to encourage veganism and reduce consumption of fast food

Ms Nabeela Sohail physics teacher from Azhar Academy Girls School said: “Schools COP is such an amazing event at the right time as we are already facing an energy crisis. Students come up with immensely brilliant ideas to the challenges we face and it is vital that these voices are heard.”

Given the vital role of engineers in achieving net zero, students also considered how to encourage more young people into engineering careers. Suggestions, which will now be considered by the organisers of Tomorrow’s Engineers Week and campaign partners, include:

• Improved visibility and marketing of engineering careers, for example, through social media

• More engineers visiting schools

• Engineering can’t be learned from reading books – it needs to be seen in action and students need to be able to experience it, feel it and have a go at it, in a hands-on way

Dr Hilary Leevers, chief executive of EngineeringUK, which organises Tomorrow’s Engineers Week said: “These passionate young people looked beyond what they – and we – can do at an individual level to discuss how engineering, science and innovation can help achieve net zero.

“I was impressed by the level of thought that had gone into their ideas. Some converged with technologies currently being explored, such as ocean fertilisation to improve carbon capture by marine plants. Others were more unexpected but gave me pause for thought on whether there might be a fruitful innovation there, such as the idea of self-sufficient agri-biomes for farmed animals to capture methane as an energy source.

“They clearly saw the role of science and engineering in addressing the challenge. It is vital that we convey to all young people the range of creative, problem solving and exciting engineering roles that they could have in the future, and through them contribute to achieving net zero and a greener world.”

The ninth Tomorrow’s Engineers Week (#TEWeek21) takes place from 8 to 12 November 2021 with a lesson plan and teaching resources available for schools to take part in the Schools COP discussions. A packed calendar will see engineering professionals showcase the impact their jobs have on meeting net zero.

Meanwhile, institutions, employers and schools will come together to deliver inspiring activities to give young people the opportunity to discuss solutions to the climate crisis. For more information on how to get involved in Tomorrow’s Engineers Week visit:

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