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Atkins, a design and engineering consultancy firm, works with clients from various parts of the world and is passionate about helping them achieve their Net Zero goals. Atkins ‘Net Zero Superheroes’ school competition aims to spread awareness amongst school pupils across the UK and to inspire them to pursue careers in STEM and in turn play their part in meeting these goals.

Climate change is a huge priority for the generation currently at school, and Atkins is eager to talk to schools about it.  It wants to inspire younger generations to make an impact by teaching them about the challenges of meeting Net Zero and understanding what this means, particularly from an engineering perspective.

In 2021/22, the Superheroes competition was launched.  It was aimed at Year 6 (England / Wales) and Primary 7 (Scotland / Northern Ireland) pupils, aged around 10-11 years old. Atkins reached out to schools across the UK, and successfully worked with 43 different schools involving over 2000 school pupils in total. Employees from across the business volunteered to mentor the pupils at each of these schools.

Part of the programme is about providing improved education around energy demand and supply and the choices and challenges we are facing in meeting Net Zero. Atkins developed several teaching resources which were either provided to schools to use themselves or delivered by an Atkins mentor to the school. The main learning objectives were to understand climate change and carbon footprint, what Net Zero means, different energy terminology such as supply and demand, different types of energy sources and the pros and cons of each, and the challenges in balancing energy security, cost and emissions.

After each mentor had explained to the pupils about Net Zero, common terms and related concepts along with hands-on activities and worksheets, the school pupils were introduced to the Net Zero Superheroes Competition itself. The Atkins mentors encouraged the school pupils (in teams of up to five pupils) to come up with creative ideas and engineering solutions to help their schools reach Net Zero, with a particular focus on key areas that Atkins works in: energy, transportation, and infrastructure.

The submissions were either in a poster or video format. Atkins received over 200 submissions in total from 32 different schools across the UK.

Shortlisted entrants were then invited to present their ideas to a panel of expert judges, with criteria based on creativity, feasibility, presentation and relevance – with a particular emphasis on creativity.

The winning teams were offered a choice between either a school trip to a local Net Zero supporting power station or STEM learning centre, or where this was not possible the school was awarded a cash prize to be spent on resources that contribute to sustainability at the school.  There was also a draw for a spot prize, donated to a school randomly.

The feedback was heart-warming.

All Saints C of E Primary, participating school in England:  “The Atkins engineers came in and provided a fantastic lesson to the children

Bardsey Primary School:  “Great competition to encourage team work and a collective collaboration thinking about the issues in dealing with achieving net zero. Allowed the creative ideas of the children to flow and for them to think about tackling a real life global issue.”

Two submissions from High Down Junior School made it to the final judging panel, one of which was highly commended and the other which won the individual prize. The teacher said: “This was fantastic news. The children have been told today and were over the moon. You should have seen their faces – surprised and overjoyed.”

Townhill Primary School:   “We are thrilled to hear that Katie and Emma’s design was ‘Highly Commended’ and we are looking forward to receiving the certificates in the post. We love for our designs to be shared and can give you the go ahead to use our entries to promote future submissions. Townhill Primary is interested in entering the competition next year, and look forward to working with Atkins on future projects

Whiteshill Primary School: “The children have learnt a lot about Net Zero carbon. The help from Atkins staff was fantastic.”