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STEM the Flow

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.

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. 

Upon submission of their entry, participants' projects will be judged by a public vote to identify the 'Best Overall Project'; 'Most Innovative Design'; 'Most Sustainable Design'; 'Best Teamwork Project' and 'Best Investigation and Research Project', in 'Primary' and 'Secondary' categories. 

STEM the Flow is designed as a project-based learning activity which should take between six to eight weeks to complete.

The submission deadline for online entries was 5pm Friday 8th December 2023.


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

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 & 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 & 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.

Plastic Pollution Live Lesson

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 

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.


The STEM the Flow Challenge has been developed to support a range of curricular areas, including delivering on each pupil’s entitlement to Learning for Sustainability, and:

  • STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics
  • Geography
  • Art & Design
  • Numeracy and Literacy across learning

Please register to take part.  If you have any questions at all please email us at

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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