STEM the Flow

A pupil-led STEM project for young people to help to tackle ‘source to sea’ marine litter and plastic pollution in their local waterways.

Marine litter pollution is one of the biggest challenges facing the environment, and has an effect on everything from flooding to air quality and even our food. 80% of marine litter comes from land; washed into gutters, blown into streams, lost down drains, it makes it's way into waterways and eventually to the sea. We must stop this cycle of litter and prevent it from entering the sea in the first place.

The STEM the Flow Competition has now closed, a huge thank you to everyone who took part! Go to the Competition gallery to view the winners and all the entries:

Click here to view the Competition Gallery!

About the Challenge:

Delivered as part of our award-winning Upstream Battle campaign, the STEM the Flow engineering competition encourages pupils to investigate and design solutions to tackle marine litter upstream at source with a pupil-led STEM (Science, Technology Engineering and Maths) project for Primary 5 to Secondary 3.

STEM the Flow challenges pupils to research and develop their own ideas to tackle these issues. These could be ways of collecting litter that is already in our waterways, or preventing litter from getting into them in the first place. As part of the challenge, participants must investigate source to sea litter in their area, identify the problem, raise awareness and design an engineering-based solution to the issue. Participants will have to work as a team to create a project plan, conduct research, draw conclusions and produce a scientific poster or build a model to showcase their idea.

Online workshops led by STEM ambassadors from industry will provide participants with essential first-hand expertise and guidance relevant for the project. 


The STEM the Flow Guidance Booklet contains all the information need to take part in the competition. 

Participants must submit a Scientific Poster to visually communicate their solution as part of their final entry. You can this editable template or make your own.

Complete the entry form and submit it along with your Scientific Poster and supporting photos to take part. If you include any photos of young people please complete the photo consent form.


Please print or share the STEM the Flow Competition Poster and social media card to promote the project in your learning and local community.

Investigate source to sea litter in your local area by completing an Upstream Battle survey. There is also a large format survey suitable for lower primary ages.


Recordings from workshops and live lessons to provide participants with information regarding the STEM the Flow Competition and background on the topics relevant to the project.

Teachers' Webinar - 4 September

This webinar is aimed at educators and STEM coordinators to provide information about the project tasks and timescales. 

The presentation slides are available to download for further information.


Workshop 1 - STEM the Flow and Source to Sea litter

The first workshop for pupils introduces 'source to sea' marine litter, it's impacts on wildlife and ecosystems and existing engineering solutions from across the world to address the issue of marine pollution. Information for pupils on how to carry out an Upstream Battle Citizen Science study supports them in investigating the issue in their local area for the STEM the Flow Competition. 

The Decomposition Timeline activity sheet can be downloaded and completed to support participants understanding of impact of litter on the marine environment.

Workshop 2 - Design Process and Project Planning

In the second STEM the Flow workshop, Imogen from Jacobs Engineering explains Project Planning and the engineering Design Process. The presentation supports participants to come up with a design for their solution to address source to sea litter.

The Defining the Problem activity sheet can be downloaded and completed to support participants in the project planning and design stage of their project.

Workshop 3 - Materials and Sustainable Engineering

In the third STEM the Flow workshop, Cameron and Lucy from Jacobs Engineering discuss materials and sustainable design, with a focus on bridges. The presentation supports participants to consider what sustainable resources and materials they could use for their STEM the Flow project.

The Bridge Build activity sheet can be downloaded and completed to support participants understanding of materials' and design challenges

Workshop 4 - Evaluation and Reporting

In the fourth STEM the Flow workshop, Maria from Jacobs Engineering explains how to effectively evaluate and report on a project. The presentation supports participants to critically analyse their STEM the Flow project and produce a Scientific Poster to report their work.

Participants can download the STEM the Flow Scientific Poster template or make their own poster to showcase their project. Slides from the workshop are available here.


Plastic Pollution Live Lesson - Climate Action Week 2022

This Live Lesson for upper primary pupils, gives a broad introduction to plastic pollution, including how plastic is made. Guest presenters from the Marine Conservation Society and Scottish Book trust explain why source to sea litter is such a vital topic to address.

Ocean Plastics Live Lesson with Doug Allan - Upstream Battle 2019

Award-winning wildlife cameraman, Doug Allan talks about his career as a wildlife cameraman and his first-hand experience of ocean plastics as a diver. 

As part of the 2022/23 STEM the Flow Competition more than 50 pupils from schools across the Clyde Region showcased their engineering solutions to source to sea litter at an event at the Riverside Museum.

You can view all the fantastic innovations that the pupils created, as well as see the highlights from the event by following the link below.

View 2022/23 Entries

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