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“His enthusiasm is infectious and his motivation is undeniable. He has worked extremely hard to solve his chosen design problem and has produced a plausible design and concept.  He has worked well with his partner and shown a range of communication skills. Ilyas has developed a confident ability to present and hook the audience or potential buyer with conviction.  Above all I genuinely believe he has thoroughly enjoyed participating and being given an opportunity and chance to shine.”

pupil design awards_blog

If you’re a close follower of the RSA twitter account, you will have seen #PowertoCreate splashed all over your news feed this week, thanks to Matthew Taylor's annual lecture and an ARC Directors Lunch time event.

They have been introducing us to the RSA’s new worldview: “The RSA believes that all should have the freedom and power to turn their ideas into reality", and if the above quote isn't an example of the Power to Create in action, I don’t know what is.

These words were written by D&T teacher, Miss Vesey, about Ilyas Mohammed, a year 10 student at Holyhead School in Birmingham, and the first ever winner of the RSA Pupil Design Awards’ Progress Prize.

Inspired by 90 hugely successful years of the RSA Student Design Awards, the programme’s baby sister, the Pupil Design Awards, has just celebrated its first birthday. The pilot project, which we ran across three of our RSA Academies, came to an end earlier this week with 20 finalists joining us at 8 John Adam Street for a day of presentations to our esteemed judging panel, a University tour and, most importantly, the handing out of the awards.


Year 8 Ipsley CE RSA Academy Students present
their projects to the judges

Watching students as young as 13 presenting their extremely mature design solutions to a range of current social challenges was extremely inspirational, and the judging panel (Angus Montgomery, Editor of Design Week; Clare Cunningham, Director at Faberdashery and Sevra Davis, Manager of the RSA Student Design Awards) all commented on the high quality of the ideas.

I was so delighted to be part of the first year of the RSA Pupil Design Awards – the student work was at once delightful, forward-thinking, and thoughtful. I was impressed by the work at the short-listing stage and all the work that had gone into the projects, but I couldn’t have possibly been more impressed with the students when they came in to present their work. They gave articulate and passionate presentations and it was clear that all of them had discovered a passion for design and confidence in themselves throughout the process.”

Sevra Davis on judging the Pupil Design Awards


Year 8 Ipsley CE RSA Academy Student chats to
Angus, Clare and Sevra, our judges.

I think one thing that made this project particularly successful was not only giving the students the opportunity and freedom to focus on a real subject and solution that they felt passionate about, but giving other more experienced designers the power to create (or at least influence) a new generation of socially minded designers.

Past winners of the RSA Student Design Awards, who are all forging their own paths into the design world, mentored the Academies students throughout the judging process, which became a meaningful connection for both, and the Royal Designers for Industry took yet another opportunity to inspire a younger generation by getting involved in the judging process and kindly donating prizes and experiences for the winners.


Chris Natt, past Student Design Award winner
(right) mentors Year 12 RSA Academy students.

But any way. That’s enough rambling about how amazing I thought the Pupil Design Awards was. Time to announce the winners…


Age Category 1 (Year 8 & 9)



Lucy Fulton & Kim Futrill, Year 8, Ipsley CE RSA Academy

Brief: The Community Supermarket

Solution: A ‘local aisle’ in supermarkets, only selling food sourced from within a 15 mile radius (distinguishable by the purple flower sticker). Profits from sales get pumped back in to the community, and all left over food is donated to local homeless shelters, rather than being thrown away.


Sasha Bryan & Katrina Large, Year 9, RSA Academy

Brief: Improve a daily journey

Solution: A redesign of school bus seats. Memory foam will make seats more comfortable. Light sensitive and glow in the dark material will mean the covers change colour, making them more fun and engaging. Covers can be changes for special occasions such as Christmas and Halloween, or to raise money for charity, for example pink seats for Breast Cancer.

Joshua Davies & Joshua Grainger, Year 9, RSA Academy

Brief: Join up the Generations

Solution: An old broken car is purchased within a community, and together they repair and ‘do it up’. With the older generation’s mechanical knowledge and the younger generations physical strength, this community project with bond young and old.

Samuel Downing, Year 9, RSA Academy

Brief: Attitudes to Water

Solution: Quick. Stop. Drop. – A device which automatically turns the shower off after 7 minutes. This encourages shorter showers, saving water. The display also tells you how much money you are spending on water, making people more aware of usage.

Amy Read-Pountain, Danielle Brough, Georgie Burnette & Rebekah Hammersley, Year 8, Ipsley CE RSA Academy

Brief: The Community Supermarket

Solution: A world map plotting the source of all the contents of your shop is printed on to the back of supermarket receipts, making people more aware of global food sourcing, and encouraging them to eat locally sourced food.


Age Category 2 (Year 10 & 12)



Ryan Turner & Lousie Hearty, Year 12, RSA Academy

Brief: Attitudes to Water

Solution: A water metre that displays a household’s water usage in an easy to read way. The metre also encourages saving water by allowing users to ‘compete’ with friends and family, and see how their water usage compares on a global scale.


Tom Pickard & Kieran McGann, Year 12, RSA Academy

Brief: Improve a Daily Journey

Solution: A re-designed car visor to reduce glare whilst driving. Light sensors in the headrest trigger the visor to automatically adjust using roller blind technology. The visor is built into the roof of the vehicle to save space and improve aesthetics.

Ilyas Mohammed & Sonah Parvez, Year 10, Holyhead School

Brief: Attitudes to Water

Solution: A plunger device which is used to save and store bath water. By using a valve system and a variety of different nozzles, this water can then be used to carry out many tasks, turning the plunger into a tool.

Husnein Mohammed, Naseem Azim & Gurjeevan Dhariwal, Year 10, Holyhead School

Brief: The Community Supermarket

Solution: A tablet and stand supported by Birmingham City Council and located in supermarkets encouraging people to share recipes within their community. You can search, print and upload recipes, as well as use the device to help you locate ingredients from around the store.



Awarded to the student who has made the most progress while working on their RSA Pupil Design Award project. This could be progress in their design skills, attitude, confidence or behavior.


Ilyas Mohammed, Year 10, Holyhead School


Ilyas with his prize: A Tony Meeuwissen limited
print, kindly donated by the artsit.


So what next?

We are going to be working hard over the next few months to fund raise and plan for a larger trial of the programme next year. We are hoping to work with 50 schools around the country, before becoming a national programme in 2015/16.

If you would like to get involved or find out more, please get in touch.


I would like to extend a special thanks to the following for donating prizes and experiences for the above students:

Robin Levien, RDI

Tony Meeuwissen, RDI

Royal Institution and The Real Time Club

London Graphics Centre

London College of Communication


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