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UK teens win world technology event

Three teenagers from Kent have been named the winners of a global technology competition designed to encourage more young people to get involved in science and technology.

The First Lego League championship saw students from more than 30 countries present technological solutions to combat the impact of natural disasters – the theme for this years event.

Team Invicta was made up of 14-year-olds Emma and Oli English and Carlos Purchase-Galarza, from Canterbury. They won the prize for a smart wristband that is designed to track the wearer if they are trapped under rubble after an earthquake.

Carlos said: “In a study, it is noted that deaths occur from buildings collapsing on top of civilians, particularly in developing areas, such as Medan in Indonesia, where the infrastructure of the city is poor and buildings collapse easily.

“However, most of the deaths resulted from when people were stuck under rubble and did not get found for long periods of time.”

The team’s idea involved an indestructible box being placed on the top floor of buildings so that if it collapsed, the box would fall and ‘sense’ the earthquake. It would then send a radio wave out to the wristbands being worn by people in the area.

On receiving that transmission, the wristbands would switch on to full power and send a wave back to the box covering their area, giving it all the information for that user and helping pinpoint where people are.

The competition is the result of a collaboration between First, a US-based mentor-driven programme that focuses on engagement in science and technology, and Danish toy manufacturer Lego.

In order to reach the final, which was held in St Louis in the US, the trio had to first win a UK event, which was organised by the London-based Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET).

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This is the second year running a British entry has won the global prize, and IET president Barry Brooks said that says a great deal about the level of innovation in the UK.

He said: “It’s fantastic news that a UK team has won the global final again. There are expected to be 2.74 million job openings for engineers and technicians in the UK before 2020, so inspiring the next generation and making sure they have the right skills to deliver important engineering projects and innovations is crucial.

“It’s clear from the First Lego League result, and particularly how yet another British school team has set an example, that there is no shortage of raw talent in the UK.

“We now need to make sure that employers, government, teachers and even parents work together to make sure we harness that talent and enthusiasm to produce a pipeline of properly skilled engineers who can help boost our economy.”

Computer coding will be introduced into the school national curriculum for the first time this September in order to boost children’s practical skills as technology becomes a greater part of everyday life.

Speaking at the Tech London Advocates event in Guildhall last week, deputy mayor of London for business and enterprise Kit Malthouse emphasised that the technology industry will continue to grow in influence.

“In the future, technology should become a central part of the Government’s economic policy, and it is certainly very important to London,” he said.

London will also hold it’s first Technology Week in June this year, using London Fashion Week as inspiration. The aim of the event is to encourage more start-up companies to form and spark innovation among those within the industry, rivalling that of Silicon Valley in the US.

Figures published at the end of 2013 showed that the number of digital technology companies in London had risen by more than 70% since the launch of Tech City in 2010.

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