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School students tackle Net Zero Island challenge at University


group of students sat at a table

Creating a Net Zero Island was the challenge set for Bradford district school students at a University of Bradford-hosted event.

The participating teams were tasked with looking at ways of producing energy for heating and cooking, managing waste and fuel transport for 30,000 people on a fictional island without creating carbon emissions. 

The University of Bradford teamed up with the region’s gas distributor, Northern Gas Networks (NGN), DNV, Bechtle and the SkillsHouse for the challenge. 

After the workshop event, held on 7 February, the participating school year nine teams, aged 13 and 14, will receive help with their ideas from NGN mentors and pitch them to a panel of judges on 17 April.

group of people stood up in university workshop room

The participating schools were Dixons Trinity, Lightcliffe Academy, Woodhouse Grove, and St Bede’s and St Joseph’s. 

Dr Elaine Brown, Reader in Mechanical & Process Engineering at the University of Bradford’s Faculty of Engineering & Digital Technologies, said: “Engineers work on solving issues that affect people and nothing is more important than those affecting our climate. 

“The knowledge and ideas generated by the young people during this fantastic Net Zero Island competition are a taster for them of the difference they can make. 

“The opportunity to learn from university and industry experts, and to meet students from different schools, will help them understand why we need diverse and different voices and ideas in order to address environmental and sustainability challenges. 

At the University of Bradford sustainable thinking is embedded in all of our engineering programmes, and students are tasked to consider the technical and ethical problems related to building a Net Zero future

“We hope that the young people taking part in this competition will be enthused and empowered to understand that their ideas and skills are needed, and that some of them may choose to continue their interest through their future studies and careers.”

person standing up to give a talk at university

Bradford Council leader, Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, pictured above, attended the event and revealed the local authority’s own plans to reach Net Zero.  

She said: “Tackling climate change is important to us all, it is really great to see this Net Zero challenge hosted in Bradford.

“Bradford Council is committed to achieving our net zero targets by 2038 and we hope that businesses, residents and students will join us on our journey. Good luck to all schools who have entered the competition.”

The UK government has set a target of achieving Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050 as it looks to tackle and reverse the effects of climate change on the environment.

Andrew Gray, Careers Technical Education (CTE) Officer at SkillsHouse, said: “SkillsHouse remit is to build relationships with businesses and educational organisations in the Bradford and West Yorkshire area to develop opportunities for our young people to gain insights into the world of work and future career pathways. 

“By partnering with Northern Gas Networks, Bechtle and the University of Bradford and Bradford Council, the students are engaging with a Net Zero Island project informed by industry leaders. 

“We're excited to see what solutions the students will come up with when they pitch their Net Zero Island on 17 April.”

An adult stood up talking to two school students who are sat down

Dave Rockett, Net Zero Educator at NGN, said: “Achieving Net Zero is a huge and complex challenge and world leaders are grappling with how it can be achieved. 

“Judging by the enthusiasm I’ve seen today, our young people are well equipped to help with the task and propose thoughtful and innovative solutions. I look forward to supporting them and seeing their ideas develop.”