Archive for May, 2011

‘green’ dragon’s den ..

May 10, 2011

On my journey to Northwood College, North London, I had a wee trip down memory lane as my train passed Harrow College (now The University of Westminster), where Meriel and I first met. Extremely honoured to be asked to participate as a ‘green’ dragon at Northwood College, it felt strangely apt to be passing by my old college where my design career started – en route to judge the pupil’s designs and innovations.

Over the past few years, Jane Simister, Director of the school’s Cognitive Development Programme, has organised the INVENT competition and this year decided to give it an environmental twist. It’s just one of the ways in which the school seeks innovative ways of transforming how teachers teach and learners learn.  Their aim is to tackle the problem of passive thinking that so often comes from an over-emphasis on grades and to address issues that can sometimes hold girls back from achieving their full potential.

Jane Simister says “Through the INVENT competition, we’re trying to encourage our girls to see, from an early age, that they can play an active part in transforming the world around them. This year, we thought we’d try something new and adopt an environmental theme, making it a ‘Green Dragons’ Den’.  This raises the challenge, but I have my fingers crossed that the girls will come up with some ingenious ideas!”

On arriving at the school I was promptly mic’d up and alongside Charlie Brown, IKEA‘s UK Corporate Environment Manager, Victoria Atherstone, CEO of Love2scoot and Jane Langley Director of Cool it World, took my seat on stage as proceedings began.

First up, were 10 projects from the junior girls, followed by the 5 senior entrants. Just like the TV series, our role as dragons was to hear a 2-minute pitch from each team and then quiz the girls about their innovations. Completely unperturbed they confidently and concisely answered our questions: How they came up with the idea; Whether they knew of any similar inventions already out there; Who their potential customers might be; and of course why their idea was ‘green’.

With being in the business of preventing waste through inspiring communities to share, my focus was to spot simple ideas that either had the potential to augment an existing product, or that had multiple applications or uses. I’m so pleased there were many to choose from.

The extremely high standard of the ideas and entertaining presentations made it difficult to choose overall winners. I found it incredible that during our ‘secret’ dragon discussions to name the winner, not only were we talking about how engaging and thorough the pitches were, we were also throwing around comments about market opportunities and patent potential. But we had to make a decision.

The winners with four dragons ..

From the juniors, the first place was awarded to the youngest entrants, Maya Patel and Anya Sumaria from Year 3, who designed G-Power: an ingenious way to generate wind power, by using fans in the grills of cars, that could also be fixed to houses, lamp posts and a whole host of other things! Runners-up were Nicole Li and Serena Hart (stepping in for Shreya Malhotra) from Year 4, with their ‘Solar Beach Parasol’ – a fantastic gadget that uses solar energy to provide the electricity to charge cameras, laptops and MP3 players.

From the seniors, the first place went to Nikkita Mitchell in Year 11, for ‘Aquarius’, an innovative device to help families in less developed countries gather and filter the water that they need. Runners-up were Jenny Spencer and Priti Swamy from Year 8, whose ‘Chip ‘n’ Plant’ technology could be just what gardeners and farmers have been waiting for to help you ‘grow your own’.

The winners next stop is to present their pitch to IKEA, then on to the Houses of Parliament! Is there no stopping them?

I think all of the girls that participated should be congratulated as in my eyes as they are all winners. It’s not easy to come up with a new idea; yet they all succeeded to bring together coherent and well-thought through stories and to articulate their individual ideas through such delightful presentations. Many of the innovations had real market potential but in the end we had to be strict with the ‘green’ credentials. I do feel however a special mention needs to go to two other projects: Switch’n’sense (a fun reminder to switch your lights off) and The multi-drip (a tactile, gestural tap to save water) as they were also big favourites with the Dragons but we had a limited amount of prizes to award.

I’d like to thank Jane and the other teachers at Northwood college for an fantastic evening. It’s great to see your hard work paying off with such amazing talent coming out of Northwood College – well done!

Images borrowed from: Northwood College


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