Competitions can galvanise students in a way that ordinary school projects never can, but on the flip side they can be time-consuming for all involved.
Design and technology and engineering are subjects that have attracted a plethora of competitions, so finding one to suit your students shouldn't be a problem. But choosing wisely will cut down on the extra work and organisation required, says Jenny Jupe, chief executive of the Design and Technology Association.
"Competitions add value to the Damp;T curriculum - especially when they are planned around units of work and what teachers would already be doing," she says.
One such competition is the Young Designer of the Year awards, in its second year, run for AS, A-level and Highers students by the Audi Design Foundation. The most recent winner, 18-year-old Alex Lyne, from Framlingham College, Suffolk, was crowned at a ceremony at the Baltic art factory in Gateshead last month. His dual-purpose guitar stand made from steel tubing allows musicians to clean and maintain the guitar in a fixed position.
His design was chosen from 800 entries and Dick Powell, founding partner of the Seymour Powell design consultancy and one of the judges, said: "I was quite staggered by the quality of the shortlisted designs. But the Designer of the Year prize is for the person as well as the product. We were looking for a student who had talent but we were also looking for someone with ideas who knew how to communicate them and how to push them forward."
After picking up a pound;500-a-year university bursary, a slightly dazed Alex said: "I have always liked making things and my teacher encouraged me to get involved in the competition. I just entered with an open mind but it was a shock to win."
As well as the bursary, Alex won a four-week placement at Audi's design centre in Munich and some paid work experience with the product development company Virdev. The Damp;T department at Framlingham also received pound;1,000.
Alex's teacher Stuart Reeve, who is deputy head of Damp;T at the college, said: "I am particularly thrilled as the judges have recognised Alex's personal qualities as much as his design skills. This is a uniquely high-profile event and this award is also good for the department and the school."
The Mind to Market Award, which is part of the same competition andworth up to pound;8,000 to the student with the most marketable project, was won by 18-year-old David Lister from Yarm School in Stockton-on-Tees. He will receive professional support to develop his innovative harness unit for carrying stretchers. Regional winners won a four-day all-expenses-paid trip to an Audi manufacturing plant in Germany and local winners received cash prizes of up to pound;200.
For the inaugural winner of the Young Designer award, Robert Orford, the past year has been a hectic one. He originally planned to join the Merchant Navy but his design for a wheelchair with improved propulsion has changed his life.
"It has been exhausting and exhilarating," he says. "I took part in this competition and it provided the spark to set me off. What was a schoolboy's dream has become a commercial reality."
Robert has spent the past year working with professional designers and engineers and his prototype wheelchair was unveiled at the prize-giving.
For more about next year's Designer of the Year Award, see www.audidesignfoundation.org
The F1 Team in Schools Challenge is one of the best known Damp;T competitions.
Last year more than 200 schools took part in the challenge to design and manufacture a CO2-powered model racing car. Prizes for the winners include Formula One Grand Prix tickets and tours to Jaguar and BAE Systems. The closing date has passed but information about the event is available at www.f1inschools.co.uk
Clever packaging ideas are sought by the Institute of Packaging which has run the Schools Starpack awards since 1999. Prizes worth up to pound;500 and individual prizes of pound;50 are waiting to be won. The closing date is Friday March 26, 2004. Entry forms are available from Rebecca Clark.
Tel: 01664 500 055Email: email@example.com. They can also be downloaded from www.iop.co.uk
Supporters of the Sustainable Design Awards include the Department for International Development and the Centre for Alternative Technology. These new awards encourage AS and A-level students to consider the wide ranging impact of Damp;T. Entrants produce designs inspired by a real case study provided by the Intermediate Technology Development Group which organises the awards. Study weekends are available to students who enroll. Tel: 01926 634 519Email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.sda-uk.org