Skip to main content

National STEM the Flow competition winners announced

Pupils across Scotland have won awards for their solutions to stop marine litter at source.

Our STEM the Flow competition encouraged pupils across the country to investigate and design solutions to stop marine litter at source as part of the national Upstream Battle® campaign.

The challenge invited pupils to investigate #Source2Sea litter in their area, identify issues, raise awareness and design an engineering-based solution to the problem.

Building on the success of previous regional competitions, the online national pilot project was open to schools across Scotland. Participants worked as a team to create a project plan, conduct research, conceptualise a solution, and produce a scientific poster or build a model to showcase their idea.

Five category awards were available with the winners including:

  • Best Overall Project - Crookfur Primary School (East Renfrewshire)
  • Most Innovative Solution - Torrance Primary School (East Dunbartonshire)
  • Most Sustainable Solution - St Edward's Primary School (North Lanarkshire)
  • Best Investigation - Rosneath Primary School (Argyll and Bute)
  • Best Teamwork - Lamlash Primary School (Arran)

Category awards made from reclaimed marine plastic and recycled wood were given to the winners, recognising the breadth of work that went into the projects.

Joe Oxley-Glenister, Education & Learning Officer at Keep Scotland Beautiful, said: "It was fantastic to see such a range of innovative, sustainable and collaborative entries to the first national STEM the Flow competition.

"There was representation from across Scotland, from Dumfries & Galloway to Dundee and South Lanarkshire to the Isle of Arran.

"It was evident that all the participants were passionate and motivated to address source to sea litter in their local area, by completing thorough investigations to identify how the issue was impacting their community and raising awareness of these as part of their STEM the Flow projects.

"I’d like to congratulate all our winners and everyone who entered. We had a wonderful response to our first national competition, with some excellent, inspiring and thought-provoking projects."

Entries were submitted to an online showcase and then went to a public vote, garnering almost 1,000 votes overall.

Imogen Houston, Civil Engineering Intern for Water & Environment at Jacobs, delivered the second interactive workshop for the participants on the topic of The Design Process & Project Planning.

She said: "I really enjoyed supporting STEM the Flow this year as it is inspiring to see the younger generations creativity and passion to complete the challenge, whilst understanding the importance of the problem.

"By Jacobs staff delivering workshops throughout, a broader understanding of the various aspects that are involved in developing a solution to a problem can be considered by the pupils. Also, it is a great way to promote a STEAM career and share my journey with the pupils, who may end up taking a similar path."

Best Overall Project - Crookfur Primary School, East Renfrewshire

With almost 50% of the votes, Crookfur Primary School were awarded Best Overall Project. P5 students investigated the impact of litter on Capelrig Burn in their local area, before researching existing methods of litter management in rivers. They then built on this research, utilising Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software, to design a machine that would travel from one side of the burn to the other, extracting litter and preventing it from reaching the sea, while ensuring the safety of the wildlife in the burn.

What the voters said:

“I like the fact that it is a design to tackle a very real problem and that they considered all the aspects a real company would consider in designing it.”

“It’s great to see the breadth of what has been considered by the ‘Litter Engineering Team’. Such as the idea of removing litter from the source to reduce its impact on the waterways as soon as possible and the consideration of the systems impact on the river’s ecosystem.”

What the team said:

“Our class thoroughly enjoyed participating in the STEM the Flow Engineering Challenge as it gave the pupils an opportunity to explore our local environment by engaging with global issues. Supported by the team at Keep Scotland Beautiful, the class deepened their understanding of marine litter and plastic pollution through the interactive online workshops and live lessons. During the project pupils showcased communication, teamwork and researching skills whilst creating their group presentations. The children's enthusiasm was displayed through their wonderful creativity as the endeavoured to design and build effective prototypes to help address source to sea litter issue. As a class teacher, I highly recommend encouraging pupils to get involved in these experiences as it helps to develop and foster invaluable skills.” Grant Atkinson, Primary 5 Class Teacher


Most Innovative Solution – Torrance Primary School, East Dunbartonshire

Torrance Primary School came up with the idea of making a unique aquatic drone created from bioplastic in the form of an octopus. It would be powered by jets of water and use a combination of a scanner, vacuum and magnets to attract and remove various types of litter from the water.

What the voters said:

“The aquatic drone, which was inspired by the natural behaviour of the octopus, is just so imaginative. Even better is that it is super innovative but also realistic. I also liked that they thought carefully about safeguarding wildlife so that there would be no unforeseen detriment”.

“The innovation is clearly in using the technology of the drone, but deriving some of it’s features from nature.  The jet streams of water are particularly impressive.  Also, attempting to fix the problem early on, where it can be more contained in the rivers/burns, before it reaches the sea if very smart.”


Most Sustainable Solution – St. Edward’s Primary School, North Lanarkshire

Robofish is St. Edward’s Primary School’s solution to source to sea litter. The team highlighted sustainability by using bioplastics in the drone’s construction, allowing it to biodegrade at the end of its lifespan and if eaten by a larger fish it would easily be digested. The students also considered what would happen in the event of a technical failure – ensuring that the drone would float so that it could be extracted easily. They also designed the drone to be small so that it would not disturb the existing wildlife and ecosystem in the river.

What the voters said:

“The current microplastic generation is an environmental emergency. This project could combat it. It is very environmentally friendly and even considers the impact if eaten by a fish.”

“I think the idea is creative and it has clear links with pollution effects in the local environment. I think it is clear the pupils involved have led the project and taken ownership over creating the Robofish.”


Best Investigation - Rosneath Primary School, Argyll & Bute

Rosneath Primary School visited their local waterways to document the local litter problem, recording the amount and types of litter found. They then surveyed local residents and businesses to determine the awareness of marine litter in the community. From this they concluded that the litter hotspots were the shore/beach and that the main type of litter was plastic, which informed their design solution.

What the voters said:

“The children carried out surveys to gauge what local families already knew about the issue and then took on the task of researching further and educating those who could positively create change”.

“The pupils had a fantastic approach to gathering ideas from others and researching materials”.


Best Teamwork – Lamlash Primary, Arran (North Ayrshire)

Lamlash Primary excelled in this category by including pupils from multiple year groups in a meaningful way. Multiple teams from P6/7 created and tested designs, which were then judged by P5/6 students. The children also took part in workshops run by Keep Scotland Beautiful and Jacobs Engineering during the STEM the Flow Competition. The pupils visited the Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST), building links with organisations and community. The students worked collaboratively, built communication skills and thought critically, among other skills.

What the voters said:

“Lamlash Primary School are clear collaborators! The children included a range of perspectives in their processes and valued all contributions, working together to come up with the designs and put forward their best possible product.”

“I like they worked in the community/ organisations to work together to stop ocean plastic.”

26 January 2024

We support the