UCL Grand Challenges


UCL Grand Challenges jointly host UCL Academy students with Pro-Provost (London) Office

11 March 2024

Students displayed their brilliant posters on the Grand Challenges in the South Cloisters throughout the week of 26-29 February 2024.

UCL Academy Exhibition

The UCL Grand Challenges team were delighted to jointly host UCL Academy students alongside the Pro-Provost (London) office. The Students displayed their brilliant posters on the Grand Challenges in the South Cloisters throughout the week of 26-29 February 2024. Since the UCL Academy opened over 10 years ago, UCL has provided a range of unique opportunities to its development. The UCL Academy's curriculum has been inspired by the vision of its sponsor, UCL.

UCL Grand Challenges themes are incorporated into teaching and learning activities at the UCL Academy. This includes the six Grand Challenge themes, with this particular exhibition also focussing on the evolved Grand Challenges of Climate Change, Mental Health and Wellbeing, and Justice and Equality. 

As part of the curriculum, students engage in initiatives and projects aligned with the Grand Challenges themes throughout the year. The curriculum enables students to broaden their understanding, making deeper connections between their learning and the real world.

While good grades matter, we believe that we must also develop students who are capable of critical thinking and problem solving. The Grand Challenges enable us to unify the curriculum and allow students to make connections between what they are learning and the real world. They enable Academy students to be better citizens, empathetic to issues such as environmental degradation, inequality and injustice for example and who will then want to participate in society” – UCL Academy's Curriculum Ethos. 

Day 1 – A Grand Challenge Survey for UCL staff and students 

Students collected live survey data from UCL staff and students on their choice of Grand Challenge, polling an array of questions from ways to better reduce carbon footprint and emissions, opinions on the future sustainability of cities, to reflections on equality and justice in our society. 

The students collected an overwhelming response from over 250 visitors expressing interest in the subject. 

Day 2 – How can we make UCL Academy carbon neutral by 2030? 

Students were on-site answering questions on their work on making UCL Academy carbon neutral by 2030. The exhibition included a display of posters that captured ideas such as the addition of solar panels, a vegetable garden, recycling and compost bins, a biomass boiler for the Academy as well as a short film – recorded and edited by the students themselves – on innovative ways to reduce carbon emissions on campus. 

Day 3 – Announcement of Poster Winners at the Prize Giving Ceremony 

Professor Alan Thompson, Pro-Provost (London), awarded prizes to the winners of the poster competition.  

The Climate Crisis Grand Challenge poster winners

The Climate Change Grand Challenge project poster winners were Eric Sebastian Mihai, Zoe NioTakis and Amber-Lilly Cooke. Foundation Level students, Eric, Zoe, and Amber-Lilly created a poster about how we could make the UCL Academy carbon-neutral by 2030. Occupying the central position their poster was a poignant quote, ‘you’ll die of old age, I’ll die of climate change’.  

The Sustainable Cities Grand Challenge poster winners

The Sustainable Cities Grand Challenge project poster winners were Horace Worall and Santiago Cardoso, two keen Level 1Plus mathematicians. Horace and Santiago worked on the poster during maths club, using the opportunity to evocatively illustrate mathematics’s impact in creating future sustainable cities. 

The Justice and Equality Grand Challenge poster winners

The Justice and Equality Grand Challenge project poster winners were Anna Ivankiv, Rahim Ali, Rahma Mohammed and Nova Goldgaber. 

Level 1Plus students also worked on the Grand Challenge of Justice and Equality, initially looking at Protest Art to push and inform ideas. 

“Our collage is about the cost of living crisis. It is meant to show the difference in life depending on how much money you have. The pavement is made of money and jewels, and those who are rich and have financial stability get to walk and live. But those without financial stability fall through the cracks and suffer.” 

Day 4 – A final celebration of students’ work 

Students returned on-site to welcome visitors and answer questions about their work. All pupils had expressed concerns about the future state of the planet, and are engaged in searching for innovative ways to tackle our global challenges. 

The collaborative efforts of students produced inspiring work that they were able to share with UCL academics, students, and the visiting public. The Academy views the weaving of conversations about these topics as hugely important in catalysing far wider-reaching positive changes.

The UCL Grand Challenges is evolving; find out more about the UCL Grand Challenges, the UCL Academy, and UCL Pro-Provost (London)