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Students from St Paul’s Girls’ School win the Energy Institute top prize at The Big Bang Competition


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Young engineers from St Paul’s Girls’ School in Hammersmith, London, and their novel solar blinds concept – SolUp – have won this year’s Energy Institute Climate Change Special Award at The Big Bang Competition.

The Award recognises projects developed by young people aged 11 to18 that aim to bring about a lasting reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, in contribution to the UK’s goal of net zero by 2050.

Sasha Polakov and Josephine Hibou wowed the judges with their project ‘SolUp’, which involved designing window blinds that generate electrical energy via sunlight and could be used for green power generation within the home. The project was born from the students’ concern for both the environment and addressing the need for renewable energy sources, as well as a desire to make ‘everyday’ objects more sustainable.

As well as the prize of £500, Sasha and Josephine will work with the Energy Institute over the coming months. They will feature in an episode of the Energy Institute’s ‘Energy in Conversation’ podcast, write a piece for New Energy World magazine, and take part in one of their introductory training courses for energy professionals.

Sasha and Josephine were chosen from hundreds of young people from across the country to be finalists in The Big Bang Competition, an annual contest designed to recognise and reward young people's achievements in all areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM), as well as helping them build skills and confidence in project-based work.

Congratulating the students, Dr Hilary Leevers, Chief Executive of EngineeringUK the organisers of The Big Bang Competition, said:

“Sasha and Josephine really impressed the judges with their project and congratulations to them on winning this special award.

“We received hundreds of incredible entries and the quality of the work undertaken impresses us each year. Young people have shown incredible resilience and determination during the past couple of years and the ambition, passion and enthusiasm the students show for their projects are truly inspiring.

“It certainly bodes well for the future that the scientists, engineers and inventors of tomorrow are already producing such astute and creative project work – congratulations to all those involved.”

The decision was made by the Energy Institute’s expert judges - President Steve Holliday FEI and trustee Emily Spearman FEI – and involved careful consideration of video material submitted, as well as a call to interview the entrants about their submissions.

Steve Holliday FREng FEI, President of The Energy Institute, and former National Grid CEO, said:

“At the Energy Institute we’re committed to encouraging the clean energy leaders of tomorrow, and it was a pleasure judging so many talented individuals during this process.

“SolUp stood out as a project highlighting the innovative ways an everyday object can provide solutions to tackle climate change, and with real commercial potential. Congratulations to Sasha and Josephine and St Paul’s Girls’ School.”

Emily Spearman, Head of QHSE UK at Ørsted, said:

“Both Steve and I were blown away with the work that has gone into this project. In addition to this being an innovative concept, the team showed a recognition of the importance the role everyday citizens can – and want – to play in the energy transition and fight against climate change.

“A huge congratulations to Sasha and Josephine on their well-deserved award and to all the entrants for their hard work, inspiring ideas and great ingenuity - it certainly bodes well for the future of the STEM!”

Notes for editors

  1. For media enquiries please contact Lauren Armstrong at
  2. The Energy Institute (EI) is the chartered professional membership body bringing together expertise for urgent global challenges.
    We gather and share essential knowledge about energy, provide the skills that are helping us all use it more wisely, and develop the good practice needed to keep it safe and secure.
    We articulate the voice of energy experts, taking the know-how of around 20,000 members and 200 companies from 120 countries to the heart of the public debate.
    And we’re an independent, not-for-profit, safe space for evidence-based collaboration, an honest broker between industry, academia and policy makers.
    The EI is here for anyone who wants to better understand or contribute to the extraordinary energy system on which we all depend.
  3. The Big Bang Competition aims to recognise and reward young people's achievements in all areas of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and provide them with the opportunity to build their skills and confidence in project-based work. It is open to 11 to 18 year olds from across the UK who have completed a project or activity in any field of science, technology, engineering or maths.
  4. EngineeringUK is a not-for-profit organisation that works in partnership with the engineering community to inspire tomorrow’s engineers. We lead the engagement programmes: The Big Bang, Robotics Challenge and Energy Quest and help schools bring STEM to life through real-world engineering via Neon. We bring engineering careers inspiration and resources together through Tomorrow’s Engineers and manage The Code, which drives change at scale to increase the number and diversity of young people choosing academic and vocational pathways into engineering. We base everything we do on evidence and share our insight widely.