Out of this world! Isla Richards from Swanbourne wins £5k in Space Agency competition

Competition Winner Isla Richards, from Swanbourne
Competition Winner Isla Richards, from Swanbourne

A 16-year-old girl from Buckinghamshire has won £5,000 in a competition run by the UK Space Agency to come up with innovative ideas on how to use satellite data to improve life on Earth.

Isla Richards, from Swanbourne, near Aylesbury, looked at using satellite data to help people before they have a cardiac arrest.

The GCSE pupil said: “I’m really excited about winning. Science is my main subject, I’m doing triple science at GCSE and I’m thinking of doing all three sciences at A Level. This competition was a great opportunity for young people to get ourselves known if we want to go on to a career in science. I’m going to save £4,000 for university and the rest I will spend. I need a new laptop!”

The SatelLife Challenge was a competition looking for inspirational ideas, from those aged 11 to 22, linking satellite and space data and its application to everyday life.

Emily Gravestock, Head of Applications Strategy at the UK Space Agency, said: “We were really impressed by the number of innovative ideas submitted to the SatelLife Challenge and Isla is certainly a worthy winner. The judges thought Isla’s idea was great for this competition, as it takes existing technology and uses it in another domain. They liked the focus on ‘now’ and the opportunity to save lives. They thought her thinking into how the technology could be developed was very strong. We think she has real potential as a space entrepreneur of the future.”

Isla’s idea focussed on using heart monitors, and activity trackers that people wear to catch someone who is in ‘peri-arrest’ (the stage before a cardiac arrest) and get them help by utilising the GPS tracker in their devices.

The competition, intended to support the development of science, data handling and technological skills, was split into three age groups, offering prizes of £5,000 for each age category with the overall winner receiving £10,000. The judging panel was made up of experts including representatives from the UK Space Agency, the Satellite Applications Catapult in Harwell and industry.

The overall winner was 13-year-old James Pearson, from Boston, Lincolnshire.

The winners from each category will be able to pitch their idea to a panel of industry experts or ‘dragons’ from the space sector who will offer prizes, which could include mentoring, work experience and even the development of the idea into reality.

The best entries will also be invited to present their idea at the UK Space Conference – the most influential event for space in the UK – held in Manchester from 30 May to 1 June, 2017.