Aberdeen charity calls on students for solutions to transform Union Street

Bob Keiller is chairman of Our Union Street

ABERDEEN Charity TechFest is urging local secondary school students to submit their best ideas for transforming Union Street through a nationwide school’s competition. 

Following a successful pilot year which brought a range of creative designs by students across Scotland, TechFest is once again challenging secondary school students across the country to redesign their high streets as part of TechFest’s Blueprint Challenge: A Future High Street. 

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TechFest’s Blueprint Challenge is a collaboration with Bluewater, a specialist private equity firm focused on global energy. The initiative has been developed throughBluewater’s charitable division to inspire children to think about future energy and how this can be integral to a better environment and social agendas. 

TechFest is collaborating with Our Union Street as part of this year’s competition to promote young people’s voices throughout Aberdeen on the future of their city.  
Our Union Street Project aims to re- energise Union Street to bring back a sense of pride and community to the historic high street.  The organisation recently launched its first whitepaper which details the key themes which have emerged from the 10,000 ideas submitted since launch earlier this year.    

Derrick Thomson, TedX Curator and one of the leaders on the Our Union Street project said “This is such a great opportunity for our future generation to get involved and have their say at a critical time for our high street.  

“I am so looking forward to being a part of this exercise and listening intently to all the great ideas that I’m sure will come forward.” 

TechFest has already engaged with the education team within Aberdeen City Council and is also urging teachers and education staff across Aberdeen to register their teams via the TechFest website

The competition is open to all S3-S6 students who want to share their ideas on how to create a high street that allows society to thrive while celebrating the natural world at the same time. Pupils are asked to take into consideration ”modern problems” surrounding architecture, economic stability, power generation and consumption, and how they can bring energy, technology and nature together to create a high street that meets Net Zero targets and encourages nature and community to grow. The goal is a modern and progressive high street that is not simply about retail. 

Sarah Chew, Managing Director of TechFest, said: “In the past decade there have been continued discussions, debates and reports on how to transform our high streets and make them fit for the future but despite various thought-provoking think tanks and reports, sadly we have seen little to no action.  

“The Scottish high street is in crisis, and we need urgent action to save them, that is why the TechFest Blueprint Challenge is a huge opportunity to champion the youth voice andhelp transform how we use our high streets.  

“Young people have a different perspective, and we see them delivering innovative ideas that are creative, thoughtful, full of insight and often surprising.  

“We have already had great engagement with the education team within Aberdeen City Council and have key members of the council including town planners supporting local teams this year.   

“For the school pupils taking part in is not only a way to make your voice heard to key decision makers within Aberdeen City Council who will be engaging in the process, but alsogives you valuable and lifelong career skills.” 

TechFest has recently written to the First Minister urging him to help raise awareness and drive positive engagement with Local Authority planners throughout the country to support the regeneration of Scottish high streets and give young people a seat at the decision-making table. 

Bringing life back to the high street has been a hugely challenging task for local authorities and TechFest’s Blueprint Challenge has been designed to champion ideas that can help regenerate towns and cities throughout the country. 

Sarah added: “We need the First Minister’s help to place the transformation of our high streets at the forefront of the national and local agenda. 

“Young people deserve to be heard and we need the First Minister to bring our high streets further up the agenda and help us develop more positive and meaningful engagement with local authorities across Scotland.”  

Schools have until September 11th to register a team ahead of the project launch on September 12th.  

Teams will work together to create a project summary by the end of November, followed by a presentation day in December, where they will display their projects to a panel of experts, with a further opportunity to display their work as part of TechFest’s Science Festival in May 2024.   

The competition is curriculum-aligned, and students and teachers will receive comprehensive support materials, including a series of online webinars with industry professionals and an opportunity for students to showcase their skills to the local community. 

“Scotland has a strong heritage for innovation and shaping the modern world,” Sarah Chewadded.  

“The TechFest Blueprint challenge offers a huge opportunity to develop progressive and ground-breaking ideas that can be held up as best-practice throughout the world, whilst engaging with young people in a fun, meaningful and impactful way.” 

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