Robot fish that hoovers up plastic on shortlist for £25,000 technology prize

A robot fish that hoovers up plastic from the oceans, and a t-shirt that detects heart problems, are just two of the ideas from teams of young people hoping to scoop a £25,000 tech prize.

A shortlist of 40 teams of youngsters from across the UK was announced on Monday, all competing to take the Longitude Explorer Prize back to their school or youth group.

The prize calls on 11-16 year olds to put their ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit to the test and use technology, such as artificial intelligence, for social good.

Longitude Explorer
Longitude Explorer

They have been challenged to create and develop solutions for some of the world’s biggest issues, including climate change, living healthier lives, and an ageing population.

And while the competition is not related to the current coronavirus outbreak, some of the ideas are aimed at people living in isolation.

Science Minister Amanda Solloway said: “It is incredible to see how these young finalists have thought up innovations to tackle global challenges, from devices that detect health problems to robots which can remove plastic waste from our seas.

“Technological innovation is important to grow the UK economy and we are supporting young people to pursue careers in this area through schemes like the Longitude Explorer Prize.”

Longitude Explorer
Longitude Explorer

This year’s shortlist includes:

– Loneliness Buddy: A smart device to help people who are isolated in their homes. The device learns about people’s interests and is able to hold conversation, as well as connecting them with others in the same boat so they can communicate over the device. Designed by a team from Wilmslow High School, Cheshire.

– Medbot: A delivery robot designed to distribute prescriptions and medical necessities to the front doors of people who cannot leave the house, with the contents only accessible using biometric/fingerprint technology to ensure the right medicine is distributed to the right person. Designed by teenagers from West Exe School, Exeter, Devon.

– ClassBot: A device for young people who cannot attend school, the robot helps them take part in lessons remotely from home, while a robot avatar in the classroom reflects the facial expressions of the student. Designed by young people at Titus Salt School, Baildon, West Yorkshire.

Longitude Explorer
Longitude Explorer

– Bacteriophage Production Technologies (BPT): A team from Sutton Grammar School in London is developing an AI which can engineer viruses to work for our benefit so that they attack harmful bacteria as an alternative to antibiotics and, in turn, save lives. A bacteriophage is a targeted virus which behaves like a parasite in harmful bacteria by infecting it and reproducing inside it, effectively eating the harmful bacteria from the inside. It uses an AI to generate its own DNA designs and can adapt to different bacteria and their mutations.

The shortlisted teams will now get expert mentoring and receive resources to help develop their concept, ahead of a Dragon’s Den style pitch in July.

The winner will take the £25,000 prize and three runner- up teams will receive £10,000.