Bournemouth Soroptimist International STEM Challenge 2018

The Purbeck School entered 3 teams into the Bournemouth Soroptimist International STEM Challenge 2018.  This is an annual competition open to schools in Dorset where students work independently in teams to try and come up with designs that sustainably solve problems caused by aspects of poverty in the world’s poorest areas.

Soroptimist International run the competition for girls with the aim of raising the profile of STEM careers for women.

Soroptimist International is, “A worldwide dynamic organisation for professional and business women. Through awareness, advocacy and action at international, national and local levels, we are committed to a world where women and girls achieve their individual and collective potential, realise aspirations and have an equal voice in creating strong and peaceful communities.”

For us the process began in October, with the teams brainstorming possible ideas that could address the 6 forms of poverty: Housing, Hunger, Water, Healthcare, Education and Transport.   With inspiration from Ms Yarnold, the teams focused their projects on communities in particular areas that needed solving.

Team Edubot (Helen Turnock, Juliette Gates) aimed to tackle Education poverty in Somalia due to the low levels of Education in rural areas, particularly amongst girls.

Team Hisani (Jazmin Astells, Elizabeth Stillman, Felicity Carlyle) set their sights on water poverty, particularly gaining access to clean water in the aftermath of natural disasters.

Team Major Safe (Georgia Chambers-Bellis, Mabel Whiting, Isabel Yarrow, Jodie Kirkham) tackled water poverty by addressing the transportation of clean water in Juba, South Sudan, where women would have to walk over 10Km to get access to clean water for cooking.

An experiment to see whether 20 litres of water can be feasibly carried by a 12 year old!

Then began the long process of researching, designing, constructing prototype models, testing and iterating their designs.  This involved calculations to cost their prototypes, logistical issues of how their product would be delivered to their areas of choice, even experiments to see whether 20Kg could be easily transported by a child in a backpack (it couldn’t!).  Team Hisani disassembled a household water filter to find out how the water filtration elements were assembled, and researched sustainable alternatives.  Team Major Safe calculated the dimensions of a barrel that could carry 40 litres of water, as well as researching possible materials for construction.

With weekly input, from Engineer Rob Schofield and Mr Davids, the teams recorded their progress in a report that was sent off for initial judging by SI international’s team of industry judges at the end of February. After a nail-biting week of waiting, all Purbeck teams were invited to the judging stages in March.

In an intense environment at Bournemouth University’s Talbot Campus, the teams had 35 minutes to eloquently present their ideas to a panel of industry professionals, answering tough questions about the impact of their projects, their justification of material choices and how their prototype would work.

Major Safe’s 3D printed Tap, filter and barrel assembly

Team Hisani’s prototype inline filtration for their backpack reservoir

Initial Edubot prototype made from Google AIY voice kit









Team Hisani presented their backpack-based water carrying and filtration system, Team Major Safe presented their rolling, filtering water carrier and Team Edubot presented their Solar-Powered, cloud-connected AI education device.

Our students were unfazed by the demanding questioning from the judges and presented confidently.

The variety of creative solutions on display to the problems of water purification, transport and healthcare was incredible.  Purbeck teams did extremely well with very strong competition from other schools including Ringwood, Magna Academy and St Peter’s.

Team Major Safe with their Barrel Buddy prototype and display board

Final scale design prototype of the Barrel Buddy from Major Safe.

Team Edubot

Edubot’s Mkii design, showing speaker, but not the solar panel.

Of our 3 teams, Edubot made it through to the final round of judging one week later with their unique idea of a low-cost solar-powered voice-activated educational AI unit. Teams were allowed to reflect and improve on judging feedback from the first round of judging. Edubot iterated their design and tightened up their impact analysis and logistics for the second round of judging.

The final round of judging took place at the impressive Talbot Campus.  Team Edubot went through a second round of judging, with further in-depth grilling from the each of the 5 demanding judges.  Helen Turnock and Juliette Gates represented strongly, justifying their design choices and sticking to their guns without compromise.

After inspirational messages from prominent women in industry including Theresa May, Margaret Emsley, Roma Agrawal and  Helen Sharman, Anna Holme gave a fascinating presentation into how the work of Engineers without Borders was working to improve the lives of Women in India by designing and constructing a high tech non-flushing toilet for use in India.

The final results were announced by Soroptimist International – Team Edubot narrowly missed out on an award, placing in the final 4 out of 33 teams that entered the process.  They were commended by the judges, as were all teams that entered from the Purbeck School.

All of the entrants will receive a Bronze CREST award for their efforts in the process, and will be invited for afternoon tea with the Headteacher.

We are extremely proud of the way that our teams represented themselves and the school.  They have been excellent ambassadors for the school in their professional and mature conduct during the judging process, and they have been gracious competitors.  They have demonstrated excellent teamwork, thinking skills, reflection and presentation skills that have developed during the process, and they have shown composure and maturity well beyond their years.  We hope to see them involved in the Soroptimist STEM challenge in the future as competitors, coaches, or perhaps even as judges in the future.

Mr Davids


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