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STEM the Flow Engineering Challenge

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 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.

Building on the success of previous regional competitions, the online national pilot in 2023/24  was open to schools across Scotland. 

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 2023/24 Entries

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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