Week 13, July 24th 2020

On Friday, Ali was joined by Maggie (TeenTech) and Darren Salmons from Atkins who gave the pupils excellent feedback on the buildings they’d created during the week as part of our TeenTech City of Tomorrow at Home programme.

We were so impressed by the range of innovative and thoughtful ideas and beautifully constructed buildings submitted by the pupils – all of whom came from the Leicestershire region this week!

Darren couldn’t believe the problem solving that had been achieved by the pupils in such a short time!

First building up was called Smart Living, which had been created by Sidney, aged 11 from Coalville, Leics.  

“My building is Smart living, assisted living. My great-grandma lives with Alzheimer’s, when we visit she tells us about, work, dances, holidays in Blackpool. She loves the TV and music. How cool would it have been to visit her virtually through lockdown. The walls would be screens that project all her memories…. The kitchen senses when she is awake and makes tea every 2 hours people with Alzheimer’s forget to drink and eat properly. The kitchen would use her own recipes too. And log her intake” Sidney

As Ali noted following the great video presentation, it was lovely to see the memories on the walls, and the number of different ideas Sidney had included, such as the kitchen making drinks automatically which was a really useful concept.  Darren said that monitoring what people need is really key to a happy life; having a home that includes memories would be really helpful to the resident’s quality of life and mental well-being. He praised the great range of Sidney’s thoughtful ideas. Maggie also liked how Sidney had thought about the added stress over the last few months – especially without visitors being able to come over – agreeing that having the memories and virtual presence with members of the family was a very fresh concept and thoughtful. The concept of having memory boxes within the whole house would help residents to have connections and give them reassurance. A great example of problem-solving based on a personal connection.

Our next building came from Asha (9) and Neeva (6) in Loughborough. Called ‘Helping Hand’ everyone agreed this building included a lovely combination of concepts.

“I made the homeless shelter kinder to people by making areas for the homeless to relax and enjoy some entertainment. I designed a garden area for them to grow and feel like they are needed to keep the plants alive. One of the areas has a VR so they can go on holiday virtually. The building is kinder to the environment by growing its own food, using solar panels and recycle water. It is safe because it allows the homeless to enter using their fingerprint only. No one else can come in unless the person inside lets them in” Asha and Neeva 

Maggie loved the richness of ideas set around a creative and thoughtful space for the homeless. It was not simply putting a roof over their heads but helpful in many other ways –  such as caring for their well-being, and encouraging the growth of their own food which is always useful and satisfying. Darren felt that this design demonstrated sustainability as a pillar of engineering going forward – for example, their great idea for using the train station, ensured they were not taking up more green space. He also agreed with Maggie in that it would be more of a home to help the residents make a fresh start in their life, feel safe and secure and a greater sense of independence and self-confidence.  Darren also praised Asha and Neeva for their design and engineering skills in producing such a great construction!​

The  Greenhouse Treehouse– by Freya (aged 9 from Desford, Leicestershire) was our next building, which was designed to tackle a number of environmental problems.

This house is built around a tree. It means you don’t need to chop trees down to build lots of houses.  It has a complete recycling system in the base which recycles all the rubbish and waste that the house produces ( water is cleaned and filtered, rubbish is recycled or reused, it uses solar energy). It is made from a SMART material that reflects the environment around it so is blends in. Every roof is covered with garden to encourage wildlife and grow plants, vegetables and herbs.” Freya

Darren loved this idea of a completely sustainable house – by using a tree for the building, without damaging it, it would be really strong and cope with all the elements. He explained that in engineering they have to consider all these things – very rigid buildings can fall over more easily – so Freya’s design is a great concept. Maggie loved this building, saying that the boldness and originality of the design has really shone through this stunning model! She added that living in an environment close to nature is a very soothing and lovely idea.  In answer to a question about how much do buildings move without damage in bad weather, Darren explained that the taller the building the more allowance you have to give for movement especially at the top- some elasticity is required in high winds  – for example, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai does move at the top! Ali admitted that he would love to live in the top of a tree!​

Arthur (aged 9 from Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire) created our next building which was called The Helpful Building. This was designed with the homeless in mind.  

“It is special because it has everything that helps people to survive. 
It helps with fuel, homeless people, batteries, building resources, food and water. I would like to change people’s behaviour and sharing”

Darren approved of Arthur’s idea to give homeless people everything they need to provide a platform which enabled them to rebuild their life. Not having to travel to different places to get different things was a thoughtful part of this.  He could see that the nice simple layout of this building could be replicated at less cost and therefore could be rolled out across the country and even globally which could be an amazing improvement to all communities. Maggie loved how Arthur wants us to be less selfish, and how he has been very deep in his thinking, showing his appreciation of life events and why people can become homeless in the first place. Maggie added that she found the design to be lovely and simple,  reminding her of an experimental design she saw once for carparks which were flat instead of multi-story and could become nurses’ accommodation – emphasising that simple, modular structures are a really great idea!​

Our next building was called Smoos Number One Shop  and was created  by Neve, aged 8 from Loughborough. 

“My building is a supermarket. When you walk in off the street you get your own booth and type in what you want and the shop keeper will place it all on a shelf system that turns back to you with all your shopping on it, which you bag and pay contactless yourself. This limits the contact with people especially at the moment with COVID….. Also, use of Braille or a sight App for VI users and some kind of system for deaf users” Neve

Maggie loved that this building tackled a number of problems being faced in an imaginative way,  making shops more functional and safe. She added that incorporating the use of VR (Virtual Reality) allows you to experience the fun of shopping without the physical problems and exclaimed: “watch this space – the high street will need to adapt”! Ali agreed, saying that he always forgets something when ordering online, so using VR would help prevent the forgetting of items! Darren felt that the concept was so great that it is something he would expect to see on Dragon’s Den! The VR aspect would mean that the shop itself could be comprised of a smaller space, and would control the prospect of overbuying, as we have seen during lockdown. Darren said that although time would be needed to develop this idea further it was a brilliant idea looking to the future and how we can cope with similar problems. He also praised the great construction and sustainability of Neve’s building and the fact that she had also thought about accessibility in considering the needs of deaf people. Maggie agreed and summed up by explaining that it is so important when designing that these considerations are built in from the word go, rather than as an afterthought which is then more expensive and less efficient, and better for everyone to share.

Jasper (aged 11 from Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire) created our next building, called  Giant Furnace. This was designed around use of plastic waste – a great idea!

“It is a giant furnace where you can burn plastics – however when you burn plastics they let off harmful gases like dioxins, furans, mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls.  However, we can use these to make other things, for polychlorinated biphenyls, switches, oil, transformers and capacitors and lots more” Jasper

Darren was impressed that Jasper had taken this idea a step further! Having looked at harmful gases produced by recycling, he had taken the step to look at extracting energy through the use of by-products. Darren explained that if the amount could be small enough there could be more availability in urban areas as the waste gases would be nominal. The fact that Jasper has been thinking ahead at what is a global problem is fantastic! Maggie agreed that the sheer scale of the plastic invasion everywhere is destroying the ecosystem and so is a great thing to address –well done Jasper for your detailed and innovative thinking!​

Our next building was called  The Subterranean Orchard House and was designed by William, aged 13 from Leicester.

The special part is that half of it is underground. This gives more green space to help fight air pollution and provide a more healthy way to live. It has a sedum roof and an orchard which creates lovely views and makes the city a more pleasant place to be in. We have a subterranean garage that when you park your car on a platform it lowers so that the car sits in the space between the two floors. Light is sent down to the lower floor through light chambers and mirrors project to show images of what is visible on the surface.” William

Ali loved William’s use of mirrors underground – a great idea for producing light! Maggie praised this beautiful model and the idea of making an environment a good place to live in, particularly through the use of mirrors. She explained about sunpipes, a piece of technology which creates an internal light with no windows by bringing in light from the roof into other parts of the building with the use of mirrors to help make them work. Maggie emphasised that light is a very important consideration when you are choosing where you want to enjoy living. Darren agreed that William’s design was a great idea, explaining that in the past the idea for how to get more people in smaller areas centred around high rise flats, but technology now allows us to go underground – William had identified the issue about light and tackled it. Darren loved William’s design, the great shapes within it and how well he had realised the design– he added that when Atkins design their first idea on paper it isn’t always the end product – it is often adapted.​

The Fun Unicorn Bus Stop / Park  by Zahraa (aged 9)  and Amelia (aged 8) from Leicester caused a great deal of excitement!

“This bus stop is special because it has a park on top of it.  Inside you’ll see seating for people to sit and at the entrance is a rotating, electronic bus timetable and adverts. There is a ladder going up to the park. There is grass, which gives more oxygen into the world, a touchscreen game and clock so people can play and keep an eye on the time for the next bus, a slide ( which is the unicorn’s tail), bench to sit and fun climbing apparatus. The unicorn’s head is just to look at it is a piece of art that everyone can enjoy.”  Zahraa and Amelia

Maggie thought it was brilliant – you wouldn’t want to get on the bus! She asked the girls to let her know whereabouts in Leicester they think it should go so that we can let the council know! She added that making a functional place combined with something else that is both fun and multipurpose can allow people to feel happy and lift spirits! People could also watch others having fun. Ali said he really liked the idea about having names for bus stops instead of road names, referring to trams in Blackpool which are all decorated differently- so the idea of bus stops in this theme would be fantastic! Everyone agreed it would make you remember the destinations more. Darren also loved this idea, saying it was functional, but also art – you could use aspects of this on lots of bus stops and change the artwork.  He also thought the idea was great because we could make the most of Leicester’s icons and symbolic places, and to make the building cost-effective, use a modular section for the bottom part and change the top part to be more bespoke.

Darren spent some time at the end of the session answering questions the pupils had sent in, covering topics such as the importance of inclusivity in design, working towards creating more fully sustainable housing and making more use of waste within bigger buildings such as offices and schools.

Both Maggie and Darren agreed that a good building should have a good layout, accessibility, include straightforward and helpful technology but overall should be welcoming – you need to want to go into that building. Moving forward, he encouraged us to continue to be inquisitive, explore further and challenge rather than accepting the first suggestion or idea!