Three pupils from Isaac Newton Academy in East London have won a TeenTech technology prize for designing a new condom that glows when it detects a sexually transmitted infection. Chirag Shah and Daanyaal Ali, both 14, and 13-year-old Muaz Nawaz were the young innovators behind the invention.
The condom, called the STEYE and dubbed “a penetrating design” by its creators, detects bacteria and viruses associated with the most common STIs and uses a built-in layer of molecules that glow different colours to indicate the presence of common infections such as chlamydia, genital warts and herpes.
“The judges decided it should win the category as they were impressed by the bravery of young teenagers in tackling a taboo subject and the extent to which they’d sought feedback from experts to improve their own knowledge,” says Maggie Philbin, TeenTech’s co-founder and CEO.
The pupils commented that they had learnt a lot about science and technology, and that the awards had inspired them to broaden their knowledge of product design. After developing the STEYE concept, the next step for them will be creating a prototype.
“We wanted to make something that made detecting harmful STIs safer than ever before, so that people can take immediate action in the privacy of their own homes without the often-scary procedures at the doctors. We created the STEYE as a new way for STI detection to help the future of the next generation,” Ali explains.
Dr Christian Jessen, known best for his role on Channel 4’s Embarrassing Bodies, was judge of the Health category.
“I chose STEYE firstly because I was surprised and thoroughly encouraged to see such young people aware of and motivated to tackle the ever rising problem of new sexual infections – a subject that I supposed (wrongly!) that only older people would be turning their attentions to.
“Secondly, [because of]their knowledge of the biochemical detection processes involved: ELISA and antibody detection went far beyond any school science syllabus that I am aware of and they had really gone out of their way to learn about these and talk to experts.
“Finally, I was impressed that they had then taken what they had learned and developed a product that was both practical and possible and could make a significant difference to tackling STIs.”
The 2015 TeenTech Awards attracted entries from more than 100 young people from schools across the country. The team of judges included industry experts, academics and celebrities such as Top Gear’s James May. After topping the healthcare category, the teenagers have received a £1,000 prize and an invitation to a special reception at Buckingham Palace.
Another team of three from Park House School in Newbury topped the Infrastructure category with the prototype of an e-water tap. This project has already attracted a £50K investment from water charity Africa Water Enterprises, and will see 100 taps installed across African villages by January 2016.
Dallas Campbell, presenter of BBC science series Bang Goes the Theory, has been an annual TeenTech judge since 2013. “The awards are a brilliant way for young people to understand and experience the creative process that follows having a good idea. It’s about networking with a variety of industries as well as learning about teamwork. It builds confidence and self reliance. Every year all of us judges are blown away by the dedication and work put they put in,” he says.
Comedian Katy Brand, another judge, commented: “I was so blown away by the imagination, sophistication and practicality of the ideas displayed at the Teen Tech Awards I actually started to feel embarrassed for us adults in the room – these inventions were so obviously the answer to all the world’s problems, why on earth aren’t we making them already? It is reassuring to know that however badly we may be messing up the present, the future is in safe hands.”