Imperial College London

Imperial researchers support local school pupils to become “Great Innovators”

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Chimney plant dome prototype

Chimney plant dome prototype

Postgraduate students at Imperial have mentored school pupils to help them develop inventions to solve global issues.

Imperial postgraduate students collaborated with 36 schools across London as part of an exciting STEM research and innovation project, Great Exhibition². The project is inspired by both the cutting-edge research happening at Imperial today and the Great Exhibition of 1851 where leading innovators of the age responded to the changing world around them in new and imaginative ways and showcased their designs and inventions for the world to see in Hyde Park. Inventions designed through the project will then be reviewed by a specialist panel to select ones to be featured in next year's Great Exhibition Road Festival.

Led by the Public Engagement team at Imperial College London in partnership with Big Ideas – a local organisation that supports projects that bring communities together - this competition aims to address the skills shortage and lack of diversity in STEM. Students could see how ‘real-life’ scientists and engineers innovate, creatively explore STEM subjects, learn new skills, experience the wonder of science and have fun coming up with their own inventions.

School pupils kickstarted their journey to becoming ‘Great Innovators’ by researching and designing incredible innovations to tackle global issues, such as climate change and COVID-19.

The students far exceeded my expectations of how aware they are of the challenges faced and their abilities to design a plan for the complex projects that they came up with Beltran Sajonia-Coburgo-Gotha

Imperial PhD student at the Grantham Institute, Beltran Sajonia-Coburgo-Gotha, worked with four of the schools. “I have to admit that I did find the sessions very inspiring myself! The students far exceeded my expectations of how aware they are of the challenges faced and their abilities to design a plan for the complex projects that they came up with. They all seemed to be very engaged in their projects. Some students gave outstanding presentations and showed communications skills that even A-level students would find enviable! It was really a pleasure to hear from the students and provide some guidance where I could!”

Some of the students he worked with created prototypes for their inventions which included plant domes to go on top on chimneys and capture carbon dioxide, a kennel for anxious pets and an app for explaining physics concepts.

“It was inspiring to speak to young people with such passion for solving the world's biggest problems. It reminded me why I loved science from a young age- it's a chance to make the world better” - Hollie Folkard-Tapp, PhD student.

Hollie Folkard-Tapp's research focuses on optimising the recovery of degraded tropical rainforest logging estates in Malaysian Borneo. She worked with pupils from Donnington Primary school who came up with innovations like solar-powered trains to tackle pollution, unmeltable ice caps and a non-invasive COVID-19 test.

The Great Exhibition² is open to schools and community groups in Westminster, Hammersmith & Fulham and Kensington & Chelsea. To take part this year visit or email

We're excited to be recruiting researchers to take part in the next phase of this project! You would spend an hour in a local school (organised and supported on the day by the Big Ideas team) to help the children/young people create their own inventions to tackle climate change. Get in touch with us at


Ellie Cawthera

Ellie Cawthera
Office of the Provost

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Joanna Childs

Joanna Childs
Office of the Provost


Great-Exhibition-Road-Festival, Imperial-Festival, Events, Societal-engagement, Public-engagement
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