STEM the Flow competition

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 is 5pm Friday 8th December 2023.

The project is now underway, but it's not too late to take part. Please complete the registration form below or email Joe Oxley-Glenister, Education and Learning Officer, for more information. 

For more information about the STEM the Flow Competition a recording of the information webinar and first workshop is in the videos section below.

Personal Information
name of co-ordinating staff member
email of co-ordinating staff member
Please indicate which stage will take part, you can have mixed ages. If you are unsure, please state.
This optional question is aimed at the coordinating staff member to capture information for feedback and evaluation. Quotes will also be used for promotion and reporting purposes.


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. Use this editable template to produce your poster

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. 

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. 


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 upstreambattle@keepscotlandbeautiful.org

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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