I helped to judge the national science fair put on by the British Science Association in the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre across from Westminster Abbey this afternoon. If that sounds impressive, check out the view from the ladies' loo on the fourth floor:
My partner and I visited five projects to be judged at Bronze level and one at Silver. The categories, from Bronze to Gold, simply related to age group. The Bronze were 13 and 14, the Silver 15 and 16 and the Gold 17 to 19 years of age. Most of the projects we saw were better at enthusiasm than science or engineering, but the two girls who did the Silver project stood out a mile. They'd come up with an original idea, they'd done all the design work for the circuits, sourced the components and done the soldering themselves. They'd calibrated the monitor against the Met office standard for exposure to UV light from the sun.
If that weren't impressive enough, they'd miniaturized the circuit and integrated it into a stand with iPod speakers. The prototype was a little clunky, but not that bad aesthetically.
They had a business plan for producing and marketing their idea. There were costing spreadsheets. With overheads.
I had to go back after the judging was over to tell them how impressed I was. We put them forward for the prize in their category (Silver, Technology). I'm going to the award ceremony tomorrow evening because I want to see how they do. Even if they don't win I want to encourage them to keep on, because I expect to see those two little earnest red heads at Imperial or Cambridge or Oxford or possibly on telly telling the story of their successful business launch in six or seven years.