Two Teams Take Home Sainsbury Wellcome Centre Health and Engagement Award at Big Bang Competition Finals

15 April 2020

The Sainsbury Wellcome Centre Health and Engagement Award has been taken home by not one but two deserving projects at this year’s Big Bang Competition finals.

Emma Worsley, Patrick Hartnett, Juliet Carr, Jacob Hill, Ruby Chesterman-Smith and Illana Epstein-Newland from Simon Balle All-Through School in Hertfordshire were recognised for their effort to make their school healthier through nudge psychology in a project entitled “Can Teeny Changes Change the Canteen”. The project aimed to influence students’ purchasing behaviour in the cafeteria, with the aim of helping students select more nutritious foods. The team used statistics to analyse their success and showed that even small changes can have lasting impact.

Max Hurlstone, Aly Champion, Arnav Koshy, Arunav Bagla, Annie Noonari and Sanjeet Chatterjee from Hills Road Sixth Form College in Cambridge were awarded for their effort to improve the detection and treatment of repetitive strain injury in athletes through their “Smart Glove” project. The Smart Glove’s aim is to help in situations where technique or equipment causes injury to the hand. Persisting with an incorrect grip can lead to permanent pain and injury, making it difficult to continue that sport. Physiotherapists trying to prevent these injuries have little primary data to help them identify how the technique is going wrong. For example, physiotherapists may need to identify quantitatively if there is too much force on one area of the hand, or areas not in contact that should be. The Smart Glove aims to provide real-time data on the forces on the hand, to aid physiotherapists in diagnosing and finding a treatment for sports related hand injuries.

The Sainsbury Wellcome Centre Health and Engagement Award is designed to celebrate a project that tackles a mental or physical health issue with an eye to helping society as well as the individual. The teams will receive £500, a framed certificate and a day with Sainsbury Wellcome Centre scientists on our campus in London.

The students from Hills Road Sixth Form College and Simon Balle All-Through School were chosen from over 300 young people from across the country selected to be finalists of The Big Bang Competition, an annual contest designed to recognise and reward young people's achievements in all areas of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), as well as helping them build skills and confidence in project-based work.

The finals usually take place at The Big Bang Fair each March but when that was cancelled in light of the coronavirus, the team at the Big Bang Fair asked finalists to submit a video presentation from which 50 STEM professionals with specialisms across a range of areas including astronomy, antimicrobials, health monitoring, underwater acoustics and toxicology identified the winners.

Congratulating the students, Hilary Leevers, Chief Executive of EngineeringUK, which organises The Big Bang Competition, said: “The judges have been blown away by the quality of entries from all the finalists – not only for their brilliant new ideas but for how eloquently they spoke about them in their videos that were submitted. We’ve also been really impressed with all of the students for their passion and resilience in taking part this year in spite of the hugely challenging circumstances, including some students being in self-isolation during the process. Huge congratulations to the students whose innovative project stood out for special recognition.

“It certainly bodes well for the future that the scientists, engineers and inventors of tomorrow are already producing such astute and creative project work – congratulations to all those involved.”

Tom Otis, Chief Scientific Officer, Sainsbury Wellcome Centre, said: “These were thoughtful team projects that were beautifully implemented. The “Can Teeny Changes Change the Canteen” group demonstrated a sophisticated understanding of nudge psychology and statistical analysis and used that understanding to improve society in a direct way. The “Smart Glove” team’s innovative approach to an entrenched problem has the potential to improve the lives not only of professional athletes and others who live with repetitive strain injury. There is no doubt that all of these students have a bright future and we look forward to welcoming them to the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre to show them our research institute and discuss scientific ideas.”

For more information and to enter next year’s Competition visit



About The Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Fair 

The Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Fair is the largest celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) for young people in the UK. Taking place in March at The NEC in Birmingham, The Big Bang Fair is an award-winning combination of exciting theatre shows, interactive workshops and exhibits and careers information from STEM professionals. Having grown from 6,500 visitors in its first year (2009) to 80,000 in 2019, The Big Bang Fair is made possible through the collaborative efforts of over 200 organisations.

School groups are invited to visit the first three days of The Big Bang Fair, which will also be open to the public on the Saturday. Young people will leave enlightened about how science and engineering feature in everything they wear, eat and do. A number of apprentices, graduate and experienced engineers and scientists will be on hand to quiz, providing young people with the opportunity to discover how science and maths can lead to a great career. The Big Bang Fair also hosts the finals of the prestigious Big Bang Competition.

In 2020, The Big Bang UK Young Scientist and Engineers Fair that was due to take place 11 to 14 March was cancelled. The advice around Covid-19 was monitored over several weeks and it was decided that due to the unique nature of The Big Bang Fair – an indoor, hands-on interactive event for tens of thousands of young people, their teachers and parents from across the UK – cancelling the Fair was the most appropriate decision to take at the time.


About The Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Competition

The Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Competition aims to recognise and reward young people's achievements in all areas of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and provide them with the opportunity to build their skills and confidence in project-based work. It is open to 11 to 18 year olds from across the UK who have completed a project or activity in any field of science, technology, engineering or maths. 

Young people can enter via regional heats that take place at a Big Bang Near Me fair or via the website. Online entries for The Big Bang Competition are open until November. Finalists present their work to visitors to The Fair and are judged over two days by an expert panel. Winners will be announced at an award ceremony on the second day of The Fair.


About the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre

The Sainsbury Wellcome Centre (SWC) brings together outstanding experimental neuroscientists who work closely with theorists at the Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit (GCNU) to generate and test conceptual frameworks that explain how neural circuits give rise to the fundamental processes underpinning adaptive, flexible behaviour, including perception, memory, expectation, cognition, decisions and action.

The SWC fosters dialogue and collaboration between neuroscientists from within UCL and beyond. Our research environment, international PhD programme, and specialised courses in experimental and computational techniques are designed to equip the next generation of neuroscientists with the knowledge and tools to tackle the big questions in neuroscience.

Through our Public Engagement Network, we engage the public, disseminate discoveries and contribute to a smarter society.