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Young space entrepreneurs pitch ideas to experts

Posted 1 July 2019 · Add Comment

Young people with innovative ideas for how satellites can improve life on Earth, have pitched their plans to space industry experts in a bid to win support to turn them into reality.

All the SatelLife winners and dragons stood together.
Courtesy UK Space Agency

The 'Dragons’ Den' event, organised by the UK Space Agency, saw the six expert judges make offers including mentoring, introductions to other industry contacts and tickets to the UK Space Conference which takes place in Newport, South Wales in September.

The 11-22 year olds taking part were all winners of the UK Space Agency’s SatelLife Competition and have already received cash prizes for their ideas.

Last Tuesday's event at the Harwell Space Cluster in Oxfordshire, in front of an audience of 60 people, was the next step for them in developing their winning ideas.

Emily Gravestock, Head of Applications at the UK Space Agency, said: "The UK space sector is growing and we need more young people to join us in the years ahead so it was fantastic to see so many innovative ideas and confident pitches at our Dragons’ Den event.

"This is the third year of our SatelLife Competition and each year the standard of entries continues to amaze us. It was great to see some of our young winners offered support to take their ideas forward."

Space is one of the fastest growing sectors in the UK and could create an additional 30,000 career opportunities by 2030. Now in its third year, the SatelLife competition aims to encourage young people to think about how satellites impact our everyday lives and learn more about the careers available in the sector.

The Harwell Space Cluster is the gateway to the UK space sector and has 89 organisations employing 950 people.

Stuart Martin, CEO of the Satellite Applications Catapult at Harwell, who was one of the expert judges, said: "Here at the Satellite Applications Catapult we are working hard to unlock the potential in the UK space sector and support innovation.

"That’s why it is so encouraging to see the wonderful ideas these young people have. I was so impressed by their pitches, they were well researched and professionally delivered, and I look forward to seeing how they progress in the future."

Lowena Hull, 17, from Portsmouth, who scooped the overall individual prize of £7,500 for her idea to track abandoned supermarket trolleys and was offered mentoring at the Satellite Applications Catapult, said: "I found it really nerve-racking but it was a great experience. It was really good to hear what the dragons thought and see where I can improve.

"The offer of mentoring will be a great experience. The next thing for me is to develop a prototype and get my idea on track. I’ve always had a passion for STEM subjects and I had a rough idea of jobs in the space sector but this has really made me consider all the potential jobs in the industry."

Above: Overall winner, Lowena Hull.
Courtesy UK Space Agency

The SatelLife competition is split into 3 age groups: 11 – 14; 15 – 18; 19 – 22. The other judges on the panel at the 'Dragons’ Den' event were; Nick Appleyard from the European Space Agency, Rob Hill from Kx, Adina Gillespie from Earth-i, Adam Brocklehurst from K2 IP and James Brayshaw from Planet.

With major parts for one in four of the world’s telecommunications satellites already built in Britain, the government’s Industrial Strategy includes plans to work with the industry to grow the space sector and establish commercial space launch services from the UK for the first time.

In recent years there has been significant growth in the UK space sector which provides £14.8 billion in total income and employs nearly 42,000 people. The Government is investing £50 million in a Spaceflight Programme to kick-start small satellite launch and sub-orbital spaceflight from UK spaceports, as well as £99 million in a National Satellite Test Facility at Harwell.

SatelLife competition 2019 Winners:

Overall individual winner
Trolley Tracker – Lowena Hull, 17, from Portsmouth High School

Prize: £7,500

Trolley Tracker is a tool that uses satellites to monitor the location of supermarket trolleys taken off site and allows them to be reclaimed.

In 2015 1.5 million trolleys were taken from supermarkets and abandoned, with significant environmental impacts. This system would enable local authorities and supermarkets to better manage this problem and help solve a previously hidden issue.

Overall team winners
Satoilite – Judd Phillips, 15, Calvin Hulance, 14, Matthew Old, 14, and Joel Armstrong, 14, from Treviglas Academy, Newquay, Cornwall

Prize £7,500

This is a service, using an app, which will allow people to find public toilets when travelling. Toilets can be rated by users and reserved by those who have an urgent need – such as those with hidden disabilities such as inflammatory bowel diseases.


Satellite detection system – Patrick Motley, 19, Blaise Umbagodo, 21, Alberto Tinta, 22, from the University of Derby

Prize: £5,000

This tool will allow improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and other unexploded bombs to be identified in warzones, and then use drones and precision satellite positioning to increase the safety of bomb disposal teams. This will also use machine learning to improve the safety of this project.

Using Satellite data to track plane crash survivors - Charlie Knott, 12, Evie Mansfield, 12 and Max Morgan, 11, from Helston Community College, Cornwall

Prize £5,000

This project proposes the use of GPS trackers that could either be attached to lifejackets or deployed to passengers alongside oxygen masks in planes, in the event of an emergency. The tracker would be linked to the seat number of the passenger, showing where individuals are in the event of a crash and assisting rescue services.

Dro999 – Luca Franchi, 17, from Sydenham, London

Prize: £5,000

This supports emergency services by deploying emergency drones, both for medical needs and to support detection of crime.

Drones can potentially reach crime scenes or casualties ahead of vehicles. By carrying cameras or basic medical equipment such as an epipen they can help ensure an efficient response.

Satellite Controlled Gun – Grace Morgan, 12, from Wimbledon, London

Prize: £4,000

This project will use geo-fencing technology to prevent guns being used in areas where they could do most harm, such as near schools or at events.

This tool would add a locator to the gun, which will prevent it firing when it’s detected to be in a particular area.

Race Spectator – Daniel Currie, 16, from Nunthorpe Academy, Middlesbrough

Prize: £4,000

This app will allow supporters to track friends and family members competing in running races. In big city marathons there is already a tracker available to do this, but it is not currently available for smaller races or those off road. This app would change that.

Using satellites to prevent agricultural fires from polluting cities – Alex Hayman, 17, from Colyton in Devon

Prize: £4,000

In some countries, such as Thailand and India, city pollution is often generated by farmland being burnt. This proposal looks to use satellite information to inform farmers when they can burn their fields safely to ensure that the smoke, and therefore air pollution, is taken away from cities and has less of an impact on the public.

Ensuring sustainable finance using satellite data – Ewan Wright, 22, from Barnet, London

Prize: £4,000

It is important for investors, insurance companies and others to understand the risks posed by climate change. By using satellite data the impacts of climate change, and natural disasters can both be modelled in advance, and identified after an event has happened, allowing interested parties to understand the impacts and respond accordingly.

Satel-Access – Jack Johnson, 17, from Camberley in Surrey

Prize: £4,000

This is a portable wearable device which uses satellite data to provide information about your surroundings for those with accessibility needs. These would include people with buggies, those with disabilities or those with invisible disabilities such as the need for hearing loops and autism friendly areas.

The app would provide the location of features such as drop curbs, hearing loops and wide doorways to ensure that those with additional access requirements can enjoy the same freedoms as others.

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