GSK UK Young Scientist and UK Young Engineer of the Year Announced

George Rabin (14), Ed Thurlow (15), Sankha Kahagala-Gamage (16) and David Bernstein (16) took the top prizes in The Big Bang UK Young Scientists and Engineers Competition.

George and Ed from Somerset have been awarded the GSK Young Scientist of the Year title for their project investigating birds’ responses to colour in the hope of using the knowledge to help airplane engineers reduce the number of bird strikes.

In their project, the students from Churchill Academy and Sixth Form in Somerset painted a series of four feeders in different colours and filled them with food. They then introduced birds to the feeders and counted the number of bird visits to the feeders and how much food the birds ate. Their investigation found that birds were more likely to feed from a feeder painted in blue.

The winners of the Young Engineer of the Year title were inspired to act after Sankha witnessed a passer-by having an epileptic fit. He then teamed up with fellow Loughborough Grammar School student, David, to create a wearable vest that monitors heart rate variability and body temperature to efficiently predict an epileptic fit up to eight minutes in advance.

Once a fit is detected, the vest sends a message to both the wearer’s phone as well as possibly a carer to warn them that they need to seek help.

Over 500 finalists from across the country were selected to show their ideas at The Big Bang Fair where ten were then shortlisted to pitch Dragon’s Den-style to a panel of high profile judges, including Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, MBE Space scientist & TV presenter, Jason Bradbury, TV presenter & gadget guru and Dr Shini Somara, Mehcanical Engineer & TV presenter.

The Big Bang Competition is 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.

Previous winners include young people who have since gone on to successful careers in a range of high profile companies, represent the UK at international awards and even become the youngest ever entrepreneurs to appear on BBC’s Dragon’s Den.

Congratulating the winners, Paul Jackson, Chief Executive of EngineeringUK which organises The Big Bang Competition said:

 “The winners have been rightly recognised as some of the brightest young talent in the country. Their innovative thinking and fresh ideas stood out to the judges. They are not just prize winners, but a real inspirational. I hope their success will encourage young people across the country to enter The Competition either online or at a regional Big Bang Fair.

“It’s easy to see why these ideas stood out to the judges but all the finalists are worthy of mention – not only for their exciting new ideas but for showcasing them to crowds of people at The Fair. This glimpse into the minds of the scientists and inventors of tomorrow promises great things for the future.”

Joint winner of the UK Young Engineer of the Year 2017 title, Sankha Kahagala-Gamage, said:

“Winning was one of the greatest achievements of our lives. It just goes to show if you truly believe in your invention and you put enough work in, you will succeed. I hope the MediVest will inspire the next set of engineers in 2018.”

And David Bernstein added:

“The Big Bang Fair has been an absolute manic couple of days for us – but I’ve loved every second of it! It’s an opportunity to learn about the most amazing sciences and engineering and I’m humbled to be around such amazing minds working to create the newest science and technology.”

Joint winner of the GSK UK Young Scientist of the Year 2017 title, Ed Thurlow, said:

“We weren’t expecting this whatsoever and quite amazed that we’ve been named GSK Young Scientist of the Year. We’re delighted as it reflects the amount of effort we put into our project.”

The award was made at the Big Bang Fair, at the NEC in Birmingham. Joint winner George Rabin commented:

“This has been a fantastic opportunity to showcase a project we’ve dedicated a tremendous amount of time to. It’s a subject we’re both really passionate about and it’s rewarding to have got so far with it.”

The winners will continue to show their ideas to thousands of visitors to the annual Big Bang Fair at the NEC in Birmingham, which aims to inspire other young people to consider a career in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

The Fair is open to families on Saturday 18 March and young visitors will be able to explore all aspects of STEM from germ science to the latest Virtual Reality games. Meanwhile, live shows from Festival of the Spoken Nerd and Stefan Gates will also keep families entertained.

Nikki Yates, GSK’s Senior Vice President, UK & Ireland Pharmaceuticals, said: “I was delighted and inspired by the quality of the entries this year, making the decision challenging! They really were fantastic and again helped to show that we have great aspiring young scientists and engineers in the UK and some exciting future talent.

“We must all now continue to engage our school children in meaningful ways so that more and more young people are inspired to continue their STEM studies.  This will help close the STEM skills gap and help demonstrate to our children that there are exciting future opportunities to achieve a rewarding and fulfilling job in STEM.”

Free tickets to The Big Bang Fair are available now at

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