Longitude Explorer Prize encourages creative use of satellite data by secondary schools


One of the most important aspects of education is empowering and encouraging students to think creatively. Accruing knowledge is certainly a fundamental part of education, but the skills developed in the pursuit of and as a result that knowledge are what will allow students to make practical use of new information when it is presented to them, and afford them the ability to solve problems, and ultimately keeping driving forward innovation in all aspects of life.

VIDEO: Creativity in education, discussed by Anthony Salcito and Sir Ken Robinson at the 2014 Microsoft in Education Global Forum

Nesta is currently running the Longitude Explorer Prize, which challenges young people to come up with ideas that use navigational and observational data from satellites for social good. The Longitude Prize itself owes it heritage to 1714’s Longitude Act, when the British government lay down the gauntlet for someone to solve the greatest scientific challenge of the century – how to pinpoint a ship’s location at sea by knowing its longitude.

Longitude Explorer

This year, using satellite navigation and observational data, along with resources and hardware provided by partners such as Raspberry Pi, the UK Space Agency, STEMNET, Royal Observatory Greenwich and more, secondary school children aged 11-16 are being encouraged to put the information to practical use in order to solve or address a social issue that affects their lives, their communities, or indeed the whole world. Suggested themes that ideas should related to are:

  • Personal safety
  • Education
  • Environment
  • Friends and family
  • Transport
  • Healthy and active lifestyles

As part of the challenge, participants will also learn more about how satellite data is currently used, and ways in which it is already affecting their lives. This understanding and observation of data in action will, Nesta hopes, engage young people and support them to develop practical STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) skills. Semi-finalists will attend an induction event at the national Big Bang Fair in Birmingham in March 2015, where they will meet all the other young people involved in the challenge and receive masterclasses and guidance to set them on their way to making their idea a reality.

The first prize is £25,000 for the winning school plus individual prizes for participants, while two runner up prizes of £5,000 will also be awarded. Full details of the competition format and how to enter the Longitude Explorer Prize can be found on the Nesta website, along with a wealth of fantastic resources for teachers and participants. If you are considering entering the Longitude Explorer Prize please be aware that the deadline for stage one of the competition is 31st January 2015.

Longitude Explorer 2

If you’re familiar with Sir Ken Robinson’s views on creativity in education (watch this video of his and Anthony Salcito’s discussion on the matter if you aren’t), then you should appreciate the view that it is not enough to simply impart knowledge to students and expect them to be able to go out into the world and make a difference. A combination of skills and knowledge is necessary if young minds are to be able to encounter new information or situations and creatively come up with novel solution and innovations. This inclination to apply skills in a creative manner having studied the previous achievements (and failures) of others is what will ultimately drive forward advances in all fields of human endeavour.

The Longitude Explorer Prize is a fantastic example of this creative pedagogy being put into practice, and we here at Microsoft Education UK look forward to hearing more about what ideas the competition produces in due course.


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