Colleges NI officially unveiled Further Education’s top innovators today (Wednesday 27th May) and rewarded them for coming up with a raft of exciting new projects linked to Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM).
A range of prizes and awards were presented at the Business & Education Through Skills & Training (BEST) Awards for the most promising and innovative concepts emerging from Northern Ireland’s six regional FE colleges.
An expert team of industry and innovation specialists chose 13 category winners and four grand award winners at the event, held in Belfast’s Ramada Plaza, while eight outstanding students were selected to take part in the STEM-focused Frontiers Programme in Massachusetts, USA this summer.
South West College (SWC) duo, Edwin Murray and Matthew Boyd, first year students on the BTEC Extended Diploma in Games Development, were awarded the DEL Entrepreneurial Award for their project – Tanked Up – a free downloadable app designed to help motorists to save money when shopping for fuel.
Gerry Campbell, Chief Executive of Colleges NI said:
“Our congratulations go to each of the winners and all the finalists who were shortlisted for the BEST Awards. The calibre of submissions this year points towards a very bright future for young and mature innovators in the FE sector. The ideas put forward were really great.
“They demonstrate a huge range of skills and talent so we know that entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation are thriving in Northern Ireland. Now let’s keep the ideas flowing and enable further education to play a bigger role in driving the economy forward.”
Minister for Employment and Learning Dr Stephen Farry said: “It is vital that we enthuse and inspire all our young people to study STEM courses and to progress to employment in the STEM related industries. The future of our economy depends upon driving up skills levels in these sectors. To do this we must ensure that these sectors offer attractive employment opportunities, and that all young people are aware of the wide range of careers options available.
“The further education college network plays a vital role in providing the skills and education to underpin the growth of this sector in collaboration with industry and my Department. The BEST Awards are established as an excellent platform to promote and showcase the world class STEM skills which have been developed and nurtured within our further education sector.
“Additionally I have arranged for eight of the students from this competition to showcase their STEM skills on an international stage by attending the prestigious Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts this summer.”
Michael Gillen, Tutor on the Level 3 Extended Diploma in Games Development at SWC said: “I am extremely proud of how the students delivered on this creative project and we look forward to making further progress on publishing and the launch of the ‘Tanked Up’ app.”
The Frontiers Programme takes place in July and challenges students to explore their limits of knowledge in science, technology, mathematics, and engineering (STEM) subjects with access to state-of-the-art technology and facilities.
The BEST Awards were judged by a panel of 40 industry and innovation specialists, including representatives from Bombardier, MATRIX, Schrader, Institute of Physics, Ulster University and Queen’s University Belfast.
The awards are organised by Colleges NI, the membership body for Northern Ireland's six Colleges of Further and Higher Education, and supported by a number of valued partners including Recruit NI, Norbrook and the Department for Employment and Learning.