Engineering the Future

marine microplastics

In spring 2018, we will be working with primary schools in a new activity which turns the usual system on its head: school pupils find the problem, and then challenge university students to find a solution.

The aim

We want to inspire children to think about the problems facing the marine environment, and learn about how STEM subjects can help to save, conserve and change the world. 

The project is designed to be incorporated into pre-existing classroom activities, and touches on issues of energy, climate change, biology and STEM education. It will run from March-April 2018, and culminate in a class visit to Heriot-Watt University on Friday 27 April, when undergraduate students will present their work to pupils.

The task

Participating classes will be visited by a university STEM ambassador in February/March 2018, and enjoy a short presentation on ‘the science of the seas’.

Classes would then be asked to respond to this presentation (possibly as part of another project) by making artwork, writing, posters, videos, or just finding interesting facts about the seas. We suggest the following possible topics (though any seas-related work is fine!):

  • Animals under the sea
  • Plants under the sea
  • Energy in the sea
  • The Hydrological cycle
  • Pollution in the sea
  • Ocean levels rising

Classes will be asked to record this work in video form and upload it by 15 April. That work will form the ‘briefs’ for undergraduate student teams.

Undergraduate students will be challenged to respond to the work that primary school children have produced on ‘the science of the seas’. Their brief is: “how can your STEM knowledge help to solve these problems, capture this energy, or conserve this nature?”

The students, all in their first year of university, will be working in mixed teams for this project, and be spending an intensive week working together to find a solution. They will be told they will be ‘judged’ by the visiting primary classes on Friday. The project involves over 300 students in 40 teams, from civil, architectural and structural engineering, biology, geography, project management, surveying, and urban studies.

The awards

On Friday 27th April, each team of undergraduate students will present their work on a ‘stall’ in a large venue at the University. On that day, visiting classes will be asked to visit each stall, and judge the student teams on how well they have solved the problems! Prizes will be awarded.

How to get involved

If you would like your school to be involved, contact Laura or Alex at

Key information