In September the internationally acclaimed Little Inventors launched the Pioneers Energy Challenge, asking children aged 8-12 to help tackle one of the most pressing global issues of our time: the climate crisis. 

Sunderland born Chief Inventor and founder of Little Inventors, Dominic Wilcox explains, “Over the last few months, we have challenged the children of Sunderland, Northumberland and Tees Valley to think up and draw their invention ideas on the theme of ‘energy’ that explore sustainable ways to produce and use energy across every aspect of our lives. From the bonkers to the brilliant we have received hundreds of wonderful entries. We are now asking North East makers and creators from across all industries and sectors to come forward and help turn children’s ideas into reality for an inspiring exhibition next summer.”

At free event, Making the Future, on 28 November, the longlisted children’s invention ideas will be presented to North East 3D artists, animators, illustrators, craftspeople, artists, manufacturers, engineers, fabricators, architects, VR/AR/XR specialists and scientists to help shortlist ideas for the exhibition. Little Inventors makers – including award-winning architect, Nathalie Baxter from FaulknerBrowns, animator and Northumbria University associate lecturer, Chloe Rodham and Sunderland University Product & Process Design Specialist Carl Gregg – will share their experience of bringing to life some of the most ingenious ideas created by local children. Businesses can find out more about recent Little Inventors projects, including a recent live link-up with the International Space Station, and the benefits of getting involved. For more information or to register for the event visit www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/little-inventors-pioneers-making-the-future-tickets-76275948415

Award-winning architect Nathalie Baxter from FaulknerBrowns is one of the speakers at Making the Future. Nathalie sits on the RIBA North East Regional Council as the Recently Qualified Architect Representative and is Chair of the Young Architectural Practitioners Forum. Nathalie worked on the The Smarter House, invented by Adriana, age 10 for North 2030 at the Great Exhibition of the North last year. She says, “FaulknerBrowns became involved with the Little Inventors as we fully support how the initiative promotes creative thinking to young people through a combination of both the arts and sciences. Initially, children are asked to free their minds and create new ideas but the making process which follows allows them to consider how an idea, which might initially seem silly or impossible, can be developed technically through making to become a reality. We were delighted to work with little inventor Adriana to help her to develop her competition winning Smart House design for the future, by introducing her to the practice and the processes involved in design for the built environment she was able to see how her design could be transformed into a reality. We would encourage other makers to get involved in the Little Inventors initiative in the hope that we can inspire more young people to continue to develop this innovative skill.

Animator and Northumbria University associate lecturer Chloe Rodham is also speaking at the event. Chloe works on commissions for different sectors – from music videos to corporate motion graphics and short films. She is also a mentor on the award-winning This Is Creative Enterprise (TICE) programme, introducing young people to creative careers. Chloe says, “I first got involved with Little Inventors at a making weekend in Sunderland – creating cardboard prototypes of inventions. Since then I have developed four children’s invention ideas into models including a candy floss volcano and a robot water blaster! I absolutely love Little Inventors’ projects – I expand my knowledge of construction and materials through the making, and the ideas are so brilliantly inspiring. It is incredibly rewarding seeing the children’s reactions to how their ideas have been brought to life.’ 

Carl Gregg is a Product and Process Design Specialist at the University of Sunderland. Carl will talk about the five invention ideas he has made real – three from the original Inventors! Cultural Spring project in 2016 and The Extension Hand invented by Grace, aged 9 for North 2030 at the Great Exhibition of the North.

The North East of England has a proud tradition of inventions – from Stephenson’s Rocket to the first electric lightbulb – and today North East companies are at the forefront of new innovations in renewable energy. The brainchild of artist, designer and inventor Dominic Wilcox, Little Inventors was born from the success of the Inventors! project commissioned by The Cultural Spring in Sunderland in late 2015. The team now works with partners across the world.  Last year, Little Inventors’ North 2030 project was part of the Great Exhibition of the North. Over 2,000 ideas were submitted and 17 were featured in a major exhibition in the Discovery Museum, Newcastle. Little Inventors also worked with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA); more than 3,000 ideas were entered, with many currently on display in the Montreal Science Centre. And five invention models from the Inventors! project in Sunderland in 2016 are now in the permanent collection at the V&A Museum in London.

The Little Inventors Pioneers Energy Challenge is a free initiative funded by Arts Council England and Tees Valley Combined Authority. Ideas are submitted online, then 15 lucky young people from Tees Valley, Sunderland and Northumberland will be chosen to work with professional makers and designers, who will help turn their inventions from idea to reality for an exhibition in Tees Valley in summer 2020.  

Making the Future will be held at PROTO in Gateshead on 28 November – the first digital production facility of its kind in Europe, created specifically for animators, film makers and games developers, offering 3D scanning, motion capture and sound recording.  A free tour will be available. To register for a free place or for more details, visit www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/little-inventors-pioneers-making-the-future-tickets-76275948415