Science contest to get girls interested in STEM awards first prize to ... a boy

EDF's Pretty Curious comp kinda misses the point


Energy giant EDF is in hot water for setting up a competition to encourage young women to get into science and technology careers – and then awarding the top prize to a 13-year-old boy.

"In the UK, only 1 in every 7 people who work in science, technology, engineering and maths is female," the competition blurb reads.

"Our Pretty Curious campaign aims to change that by sparking the imagination of young girls, inspiring them to stay curious about the world around them, and continue pursuing science-based subjects at school - and in their careers."

So far so good on that – the sex imbalance in the technology industry is well recorded. But the eventual winner of the competition was a young lad who came up with the idea of building clockwork energy storage devices into a games controller to harvest power generated by playing.

"We were really impressed with the ideas which were submitted. It's exciting to see so many young people getting involved in this type of initiative and engaging with Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths). We hope more young people will be inspired to pursue Stem subjects at school and consider Stem careers in future," Amy Edmundson, an electrical maintenance technician at EDF, told the BBC.

Three of the four runners-up prizes did go to young women, including ideas for a waterproof tablet for use in the bath and another for a software system for refrigerators that identifies the sell-by and use-by dates to minimize food waste. Recently honored computer scientist Dr Sue Black OBE FBCS FRSA was scathing about the award.

"Congratulations to the winner – but I'd love to hear from EDF how the winning solution meets their stated aim for the competition," she said. "It is taking me a bit of time to work out how this result will change girls' perceptions of STEM."

EDF has responded by saying that the competition was originally meant to encourage girls into science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) but that it was opened up to both sexes in the name of gender equality. ®

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