TeenTech Prize-giving at Buckingham Palace

The Duke with Sophie Brock

The Duke with Sophie Brock

On Monday, I was woken at what seemed to be the middle of the night to the sound of multiple phone alarms, set a few hours ago due to my fears of arriving at the train station late. After months of waiting, the time spent pestering my teachers for any more information and discussing what to wear (sorry!), I was listening to my parents discuss the best way to not crease a shirt on the way to London, ready for a prize-giving at Buckingham Palace later in the day. Last June, after winning the Journalism Category at the TeenTech Awards – a national competition to encourage young people to become more involved in STEM subjects – I assumed that, after a few weeks, it would mostly be forgotten. Instead, we received an email detailing information about a reception hosted by HRH The Duke of York for the winners, one that would be held in October at a Palace I had only just seen from the outside. In fact, it was after the TeenTech Final in 2013 – where I was a finalist – that my teachers had to walk me up the Mall to see it for the first time.

As a teen from a Swansea Comprehensive School, I never expected to find myself climbing out of a taxi outside Buckingham Palace, to then be allowed inside. Each person welcomed us, hoping that we would enjoy, and I couldn’t help but take my time walking up the red carpet and into the Palace. I wanted to take everything in.

There was a sense of camaraderie between all of the schools there, everyone speaking to each other like they were having a ‘catch up’ in the street – not in the middle of Buckingham Palace. We were encouraged to talk, rather than sit in silence, and the whole morning was really relaxed; sitting with my teacher at the front re-reading a scrap of paper with what I wanted to say written on it, trying to remember as much as possible. Before the awards were given out and HRH arrived, Maggie Philbin came to speak to my teacher and I, discussing the first TeenTech Cymru event in 2013 that I had been involved in as a reporter. In the room, I noticed that Dallas Campbell and Liz Bonnin were there – who I had met at the Royal Society during the awards – and we couldn’t help but grab a picture with them outside the Palace later. It did take quite a few attempts though, as that was the moment my teacher’s phone decided not to work!

Sophie Brock receives her TeenTech award

Sophie Brock receives her TeenTech award

After the video of the 2014 Judging Day was shown, where most of us sat cringing as our faces appeared, The Duke of York arrived and the prize- giving began. Each of the category winners at the event –  who had come up with ideas that could aid the partially-sighted, help those with dementia and reduce the risk of car crashes –  were introduced by Maggie, called up to answer questions about their submission and how they were progressing with their idea. About halfway through, it was my own turn, and luckily, I didn’t trip whilst walking up – one of many nightmare scenarios for the day. Instead, I actually managed to answer questions about how I felt at that first event and what I have learnt since then.

One thing I did point out was the importance of involving the media in STEM subjects; in a way, it is the journalists who give the scientists their voice. Without them, the public wouldn’t know about the ideas that could change their lives, although there definitely needs to be more of this type of journalism. The TeenTech Awards, to such a huge extent, have changed my perception on the world of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. I’ll admit I once pictured a scientist in the stereotypical way (with hair like Albert Einstein’s) but now, I realise that a huge number of young girls – if the Awards are a sign of it – are beginning to take an interest in these subjects, and that the Media’s involvement in this can’t be ignored.

I never thought that I would be drinking orange juice out of a wine glass at Buckingham Palace or looking out of the window at the lamp decorated with a crown on top. I couldn’t contemplate answering the Duke of York’s “very tough questions” or speaking to the journalists that were there on the day, listening to all of the advice that I was being given. To have been invited to the Palace has really inspired me to continue to write about STEM, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.

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