South London teenagers have the solution to air pollution

Students from four schools across Southwark and Lambeth were given the opportunity to pitch solutions to combat rising levels of air pollution to their head teachers last week.

The day-long STEM workshop saw the cohort of 22 Year 9 pupils – all aged 14  – build and code their own air pollution monitors, collect and analyse the data from them, and then create policy based on the data. 

The day’s activities culminated in a presentation to their head teachers as well as the head of governors. 

“It was quite scary, pitching to our head teachers, but also a really good experience – I guess!,” said Ali FitzGerald-Jones, a 14-year-old aspiring policy advisor, from Charter School East Dulwich, where the event took place. 

Policy solutions pitched by the students included planting shrubs along the kerbside to capture air pollution from car exhausts, moving playgrounds away from busy junctions and introducing tolls outside schools on main roads. 

Dominic Bergin, head of Elmgreen Secondary School in Elmcourt Road, Norwood, said: “It was fantastic to see young people from a number of schools talking about the important topic of air pollution. 

Students built and coded their own air pollution monitors (Picture: Jonny Hughes)

“I really enjoyed the presentations as the young people of South London came up with a series of innovative ideas to make it better.”

The event was kicked off by Dr Ian Mudway, senior lecturer at Imperial College London. Once fully briefed, the pupils took on the roles of coder, engineer, data analyst, project manager and policy advisor and were given a masterclass in their role by an expert in their field. 

Kate Pryse-Lloyd, chief executive of Stem Workshops, helped the coders to programme the sensors, while Simone Steel, a Fellow of the BCS – The Chartered Institute of IT, helped the data analysts understand the numbers and what they meant in real terms. 

Marcel Belingue, a public policy specialist, introduced the children to policy-making. He said: “I was very impressed with the level of interest from the students, and even more so by the recommendations they came up with!”

The event was a collaboration between Stem Workshops and Mums for Lungs,  a grassroots campaign group of parents fighting against air pollution. 

Ms Pryse-Lloyd, said: “This kind of hands-on experience not only challenges the students but also prepares them for future STEM careers. 

“The workshop aimed to reflect the demographics of our population in the STEM workforce, ensuring a diverse and skilled future generation.”

Pictured top: The Year 9 pupils from Southwark and Lambeth schools who took part in the STEM workshop (Picture: Jonny Hughes)

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