Aberdeen school wins national competition to improve Scotland’s high streets

13 December 2023
  • Scottish Charity, TechFest, has announced that pupils from Oldmachar Academy, Aberdeen are the 2023 winners of the TechFest Blueprint Challenge (TFBC).
  • This year’s national competition, aligned with the CREST Awards and grounded in STEM, asked students to come up with realistic ideas for regenerating failing high streets across the nation.
  • S3 pupils from Oldmachar Academy came up with a variety of innovative ideas for transforming Scotland’s struggling high streets including a U-shaped layout model for easy navigation, energy-generation pavements, a hydrogen-powered bus system and nature-inspired spaces to improve social interactions and mental health.
  • Sarah Chew, Managing Director of TechFest, said: “Congratulations to the pupils at Oldmachar Academy for their hard work and inspiring presentation. The winning entry clearly displays that young people and their fresh perspectives deserve to be heard by decision-makers, and they might just have the answers and ideas that will help transform high streets throughout Scotland.”

Scottish Charity, TechFest, has revealed that S3 pupils from Oldmachar Academy, Aberdeen are the 2023 winners of the TechFest Blueprint Challenge.

Following a successful pilot year, TechFest returned to challenge secondary school students across the country to redesign their high streets as part of TechFest’s Blueprint Challenge: A Future High Street.

The TFBC is a collaboration with Bluewater, a specialist private equity firm focused on global energy. The initiative has been developed through Bluewater’s charitable division to inspire children to think about future energy and how this can be integral to a better environment and social agendas.

TechFest Blueprint Challenge is an excellent example of project-based learning which allows young people to develop a range of skills, including problem-solving, creativity, innovation, teamwork and time management.

The 2023 TFBC saw a competition record 25 schools from across Scotland taking part, including teams from Aberdeenshire, Dundee, West Lothian, North Ayrshire, West Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire and Argyll and Bute.

The competition was open to all S3-S6 students who shared their ideas on how to create a high street that allows society to thrive while celebrating the natural world at the same time. Pupils were asked to take into consideration ‘’modern problems’’ surrounding architecture, economic stability, power generation and consumption, and how they can bring energy, technology and nature together to create a high street that meets Net Zero targets and encourages nature and community to grow. The goal was to create a modern and progressive high street that is not simply about retail.

Sarah Chew, Managing Director of TechFest, said: “Well done to the amazing team from Oldmachar Academy, the judges were very impressed with their presentation and unique approach to solving the issue of regenerating Scotland’s high streets.

“Alongside commending the winners, I would like to thank everyone that took part this year. It has been a fantastic competition which saw a record number of entries and showcased the limitless potential of our youth.

“Young people must be engaged with and taken seriously for the future of our nation and we need the Scottish Government to bring our high streets further up the agenda.”

The competition was judged to a high standard by several industry experts including Frazer Blyth, Director of Investor Relations & Marketing at Bluewater.

He said: “The sheer number and impressive quality of entries for this year’s competition has been astounding.

“The breadth of ideas have truly showcased the talent and progressive thinking from young people throughout the country, and it would be a hugely positive step for this ingenuity to be embraced by decision makers as we aim to regenerate Scotland’s high streets.”

Oldmachar Academy’s ideas included an innovative U-shaped high-street model for easy navigation, a next-generation pavement which transforms kinetic power into electricity, a hydrogen-powered bus system to improve its eco-impact and sustainability, as well as nature-inspired spaces to encourage social interactions and mental health well-being. Judges said their vision not only showcased a profound understanding of urban planning but also reflected a commitment to fostering a healthier, greener, and technologically advanced future for Scottish communities.

The “CBGKS” from Mearns Academy, Laurencekirk, emerged as formidable contenders in the TechFest competition, securing the runner-up position with their groundbreaking ideas for revitalizing the Scottish High Street.

Their innovative approach transcended conventional approaches, embracing sustainability as a core principle, envisioning a High Street adorned with eco-friendly architecture, incorporating renewable materials and cutting-edge technologies like aeromines and kinetic roads. The judging panel noted that their approach ultimately aimed to create a more environmentally conscious and technologically advanced urban environment.

The Creativity Award went to the Streets Revive Team from Morgan Academy in Dundee and OLSP LfS from Our Lady & St Patrick’s High School in Dumbarton received a Highly Commended recognition for their submission.

Joyce Watt of Oldmachar Academy said: “As a school, we are so proud of all the hard work that the pupils have put into their presentation and would like to thank the teachers and TechFest team for all their support during the competition.

“We saw a real positive impact from the competition on participants gaining great STEM experience that will further their future career prospects.

“We hope this achievement will stay with the pupils and empower them to make a difference throughout their working careers and combat future challenges.”

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