‘AdMeliora’ crowned winners of our Davidson Inventors Challenge 2021

‘AdMeliora’ crowned winners of our Davidson Inventors Challenge 2021 

The team of Year 12 students, from The Tiffin Girls School in Kingston upon Thames, developed a biodegradable face mask, made from potato starch

Five female students in lab coats stand in front of a whiteboard in their science classroom

The winning team, ‘AdMeliora’: Mehakdeep Kaur, Maya Rawat, Vivien Ablay, Niketa Walichchoru Evayage, Akshita Sudhir

The winning team, ‘AdMeliora’: Mehakdeep Kaur, Maya Rawat, Vivien Ablay, Niketa Walichchoru Evayage, Akshita Sudhir

Our inaugural Davidson Inventors Challenge wrapped up on Friday evening, celebrating the “innovative spirit of the next generation of brilliant scientists” as our four finalist student teams presented their projects to our audience and judging panel.

The winning team, ‘AdMeliora’ (Mehakdeep Kaur, Maya Rawat, Vivien Ablay, Niketa Walichchoru Evayage and Akshita Sudhir) Year 12 students from The Tiffin Girls School in Kingston upon Thames, developed a biodegradable face mask, made from potato, to combat the issue of increasing waste from disposable face masks used during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a very close call by the judging panel, high commendations were given to our runners up:

  •  Geobetter (Year 11, Sacred Heart High School, Newcastle upon Tyne), who developed the Geobattery, which uses nanowires of geobacter bacteria biofilms to generate sustainable and affordable electricity. 
  •  The Hydroponics (Year 12, Brighton College, Brighton), who developed a solar-powered cooker and water boiler to provide a cheap and sustainable way to sanitise water in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • SCEEM (Year 12, South Hampstead High School, London), who developed a skin-tone calibrated pulse oximeter that addresses racial bias in current pulse oximeters, used, among other things, to test for hypoxia in COVID-19 patients.

“I am really impressed by the innovative spirit and the quality of the presentations by the students,” said Professor Clemens Kaminski, Head of the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology at the University of Cambridge. “Their enthusiasm was tangible – clearly the next generation of brilliant scientists is on its way. Let's hope many come through CEB: As our alumna Rachel Cooke showed, graduates from CEB are perfectly equipped to tackle global challenges.”

“On behalf of IChemE, many congratulations to AdMeliora and all the finalists in this inaugural competition, I’m delighted to have been part of this awards ceremony,” said Professor Stephen Richardson, President of the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE), on announcing the winning team.

“A past president of IChemE and a friend of mine, Professor John Davidson was an active member of the Institution, committed to the profession and passionate about teaching the future leaders of chemical engineering. Through your creative and innovative projects, you have demonstrated the importance of applying chemical engineering skills and thinking to find sustainable solutions to problems that we all face around the world today. I am sure that this would have made him very proud. I hope you will consider this exciting profession as a potential for your future career journey.”

Shining a light on scientists of the future

As well as presentations from our four finalists, the event featured talks from Peter Davidson, CEB alumnus and Professor John Davidson’s son, on his father’s life and legacy; Dr Rachel Cooke, CEB alumna and Senior Manager for Reliability Engineering at Amazon, on career opportunities for chemical engineers; and a keynote speech from Nadhim Zahawi MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment.

“The Davidson Inventors Challenge (DIC), which is being held by the University of Cambridge, is a fantastic opportunity for the best and brightest STEM students to demonstrate their skills and ingenuity,” said Nadhim Zahawi, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment and MP for Stratford-upon-Avon, a member of the judging panel and speaker at the DIC final.

“I am delighted to see the enthusiasm the DIC has generated amongst the scientists of the future, who will be at the forefront of developing new technologies as we look to build a more sustainable world.”

The winning student team will be awarded a certificate by the President of the IChemE and a personalised trophy. Accompanied by their teacher, they will also be treated to a special virtual tour of the facilities Amazon, courtesy of CEB alumna Rachel Cooke.

Later in the summer, they will be invited to come to Cambridge to spend an afternoon in our department (with COVID-19 restrictions and social distancing likely to be in place!). During the visit the winning team will get an opportunity to meet and talk to some of our academics and students and get a taste of what studying at the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology is really like.

Practical problem-solving for global challenges

Launched in October last year, in collaboration with The Association of Science and Technology in Malaysia (ASTI), we challenged 14- to 17-year-old students in the UK to develop a solution that addresses one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. In teams of three to five, students were encouraged to think of a problem and evaluate innovative solutions to current-day global challenges. Overcoming the significant challenges of team-working during the covid-19 pandemic, we received an amazing response with 54 registrations.

Over the last seven months, we have been working with nearly 200 students from 45 different schools across the UK. Under the supervision of a team of 14 reviewers, including some of our researchers and graduates in industry, who have provided feedback along the way, students have produced a project outline and a final report with an aim to come up with sustainable, innovative solutions to their selected problems or challenges.

“The aim of the Davidson Inventors Challenge was to support students at schools to learn about chemical engineering as a discipline and its importance in working towards sustainable development goals,” said Dr Kamran Yunus, Senior Teaching Associate at CEB and Admissions Tutor for Downing College Cambridge. “It was really great seeing so many young students put their engineering skills into practice and think about practical and amenable solutions for a range of global challenges.”

“Firstly, I would like to thank the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology for taking the brave step in making the Davidson Inventors Challenge a reality,” said Yunus Yasin, President of ASTI. “To all the participants, including those who did not qualify for the finals, the journey of a 1000 miles starts with a single step; I hope that you will continue on your journey of discovery and inventing, to make this world a better place for all.”.

In memory of John Davidson, 'founding father of fluidisation'

The Davidson Inventors Challenge is aimed at young students interested in STEM in tribute to  our Emeritus Professor, John Davidson, and former Head of Department, who sadly passed away last December. He was known as ‘the founding father of fluidisation’ and worked in chemical engineering since 1952, including in the areas of fluid flow, process dynamics, gas absorption and fluidisation technology, remaining a very active researcher until his death.

He was passionate about his students, interested in their well-being and enjoyed their questions. He was always committed to the very highest standards of teaching and research and often had simple solutions relying on a profound understanding of the fundamentals.  

Goals for a sustainable future

The theme for our inaugural competition was the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) developed by the United Nations to address global challenges as noted in the SDGs strategy. Students had the opportunity to problem-solve and come up with innovative solutions, which are key skills all chemical engineers learn, develop, and put into practice on a daily basis. In this way, they not only get first-hand experience and become familiar with the diverse applications of chemical engineering and biotechnology, but they also learn about the important role chemical engineers and biotechnologists play in tackling the toughest global challenges.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank our partners, The Association of Science and Technology in Malaysia (ASTI) and The Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE), and all participating schools and students for their excellent submissions.

Zoom screenshot of the five female students who made up the team from AdMeliora

AdMeliora receiving the news they were the winners of the first Davidson Inventors Challenge over Zoom, with the final held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

AdMeliora receiving the news they were the winners of the first Davidson Inventors Challenge over Zoom, with the final held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am really impressed by the innovative spirit and the quality of the presentations by the students – clearly the next generation of brilliant scientists is on its way."
Professor Clemens Kaminski, Head of Department, CEB
Five female students stand in a group in their school hall

Geobetter, Year 11, Sacred Heart High School, Newcastle upon Tyne: Crina Cojocaru, Charlotte Broadbent, Grace Joshy, Ruby Straker, Surina Singh

Geobetter, Year 11, Sacred Heart High School, Newcastle upon Tyne: Crina Cojocaru, Charlotte Broadbent, Grace Joshy, Ruby Straker, Surina Singh

Four male students stand either side of screen in a classroom with a fifth male student shown on a video call

The Hydroponics, Year 12, Brighton College, Brighton: Josh Davidson, Mark Lee, Shiven Patel, Winston Tang, Joe Welby

The Hydroponics, Year 12, Brighton College, Brighton: Josh Davidson, Mark Lee, Shiven Patel, Winston Tang, Joe Welby

Five female students wearing face masks stand in a line in front of a white wall in a classroom

SCEEM, Year 12, South Hampstead High School, London: Maisie Young, Esme Braganza, Emma Pei, Christina Miaris, Samantha Tan

SCEEM, Year 12, South Hampstead High School, London: Maisie Young, Esme Braganza, Emma Pei, Christina Miaris, Samantha Tan

“I am delighted to see the enthusiasm the Davidson Inventors Challenge has generated amongst the scientists of the future, who will be at the forefront of developing new technologies as we look to build a more sustainable world.”
Nadhim Zahawi MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment
Nadhim Zahawi speaking on Zoom in front of a yellow-green curtain and Union Flag

Nadhim Zahawi MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment, was the keynote speaker at the Davdison Inventors Challenge Final.

Nadhim Zahawi MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment, was the keynote speaker at the Davdison Inventors Challenge Final.


UN Sustainable Development Goals: (1) No Poverty, (2) Zero Hunger, (3) Good Health and Well-being, (4) Quality Education, (5) Gender Equality, (6) Clean Water and Sanitation, (7) Affordable and Clean Energy, (8) Decent Work and Economic Growth, (9) Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, (10) Reducing Inequality, (11) Sustainable Cities and Communities, (12) Responsible Consumption and Production, (13) Climate Action, (14) Life Below Water, (15) Life On Land, (16) Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions, (17) Partnerships for the Goals.
“The aim of the Davidson Inventors Challenge was to support students at schools to learn about chemical engineering as a discipline and its importance in working towards sustainable development goals. It was really great seeing so many young students put their engineering skills into practice and think about practical and amenable solutions for a range of global challenges.”
Dr Kamran Yunus, Senior Teaching Associate, CEB

Professor John Davidson

Professor John Davidson was a much-loved and highly inspirational figure at CEB and in the wider chemical engineering community

Professor John Davidson was a much-loved and highly inspirational figure at CEB and in the wider chemical engineering community

The Davidson Inventors Challenge logo, University of Cambridge Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology logo, Association of Science Technology and Innovation logo, Institution of Chemical Engineers logo