In the week that election fever grips the UK, the finalists of Microsoft’s YouthSpark Challenge for Change also want your vote – and the process is now officially open. So who will you vote for?
Now in its third year, the global Challenge for Change initiative encourages young people to make a change for good in their community, or anywhere around the world and are awarded a grant of $2,500 to make it happen. Applicants – between the ages of 13 and 25 – are tasked with coming up with an idea for a community project to engage other young people, underpinned by technology. Challenge for Change is part of Microsoft’s YouthSpark programme, a company-wide commitment to create education, employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for young people around the world.
Today, the names of the 30 finalists from across the globe have been announced, including two young people from the UK, looking to bring about real change for communities both at home and overseas.
Cast your vote here for the project that you would like to see turned into reality with a $2,500 grant from Microsoft, with the added bonus of a Microsoft Windows Phone, the opportunity to serve as a Microsoft YouthSpark Advocate for the year and an amazing leadership-development trip to Nicaragua to learn about creating change.
You have until the 14th May to vote and winners will be announced on 27 May. Details of the UK entrants are below.
Science Kits for Primary Schools
Lawrence Berry – entering in the 13-17 year old category – is passionate about helping young people to explore the possibilities of science, outside of the classroom environment. He believes that many young children in primary education in the UK and elsewhere don’t get a chance to experience the joys and challenges of experimenting with science, but are instead taught facts without the hands-on, experimental approach which makes science so exciting.
The aim of his project is to galvanize more people to continue to pursue their science education throughout school and beyond. In the first instance, he wants more children to have the opportunity to see how much fun learning science can be. Eventually, he has the hope that this could lead to a stronger pipeline of talent to fill the growing number of STEM jobs.
To begin with, Lawrence plans to develop a website providing access to simple science experiments and video demos so kids can explore the possibilities of science at home. But he doesn’t want to stop there. His ultimate aim is to create simple Physics, Chemistry and Biology experimental sets designed specifically for use by young children so they can get to grips with practical science at a younger age.
“Many young children lose interest in the sciences even before they arrive at secondary school,” says Lawrence. “The main problem is that most primary schools do not have the time, money nor the resources to accommodate experiments in their teaching methods. I think this is a great shame as I believe allowing primary school children to experiment would greatly enhance their learning experience and let them discover what science is really about, as I have had the opportunity to do at secondary school.”
You can find out more about Lawrence on the Challenge for Change website
The Youth Project
Eashan Thakrar – also entering in the 13-17 year old category – has a deep-rooted passion for inspiring young people to make a change in their own lives, as well as the lives of those in their communities. He founded an organisation called The Youth Project (www.typuk.org) last year to encourage young people to help drive change for others. So far, he and his team have constructed sports facilities in the slums of Ahmedabad, India. The facilities are now accessible to children in the local area, with free sports coaching sessions taking place weekly for different age groups. Eashan and his team are currently raising funds to construct a community centre in the same slum, and hope to branch out into other countries soon.
The group has a team of 150 people working across four countries. In the UK, the Youth Project runs a mentoring scheme for disabled youth every week.
Eashan hopes to be able to use Microsoft’s help to expand globally and launch a similar sports initiative in Uganda. Eashan runs the business from his Microsoft Surface which he won when he was recognised as a finalist in the competition.
“I am passionate about providing equal opportunities to those within the poorest regions of the world. I feel that finance should not deprive people of basic necessities such as food, clean drinking water and basic sanitation,” says Eashan.
You can find out more about Eashan on the Challenge for Change website.