The DarwIN Shrewsbury Festival kicked off with an explosion of independent thinking last night with the Finals of the first ever Shropshire Young Thinkers’ Competition – a spectacular challenge dreamt up and staged by Morris & Company and University Centre Shrewsbury.

Last night saw 20 finalists competing in front of a packed audience of parents, teachers, supporters and judges, bringing to life their “One Great Idea to Change the World,” with 11-year-old Rose Farquharson from Prestfelde and 13-year-old Katie McPartland from Mary Webb School crowned winners of the two age range categories.

Robin Morris, Chairman of Morris & Company, was joined by fellow judges, children’s author, Isabel Thomas and Professor Anna Sutton, Provost of University Centre Shrewsbury, and commented:

“We could never have guessed how hard it would be to judge this first Young Thinkers Final. We were bowled over by the imagination and scope of the ideas presented, it was a really tough task selecting our winners. How great that Shropshire has such a wealth of young talent and it has been such a privilege to give these youngsters a stage, on which to tell the world their ideas.”

Over 350 entries were received from children spanning a ten-year age range which were reduced to a shortlist of 20 for the big event. All participants gave rousing renditions of their ideas with a special ‘appearance’ by Mr Charles Darwin himself adding to the occasion. It was however Rose’s fantastic invention, the I-Smile Watch and Katie’s Social Media Moratorium which wowed the judges most and which took the top prizes of a GoPro Camera and a trip to London to stay over at the Natural History Museum, plus £250 for their schools.

Rose’s I-Smith Watch has an app which has all the functionality to help keep the mind healthy. Using sensors to read pulse, blood pressure and serotonin levels, it will know when stress levels are increasing and will suggest happy activities such as ‘smile for 10 seconds’ or ‘laugh for two minutes’. A superb invention which could revolutionise the promotion of mental wellbeing and prevention of mental illness.

Katie McPartland received an ovation from the audience with her brave and controversial idea to eliminate all social media. Katie believes that social media is causing far more harm than good with cyber bullying and the damage this is doing within schools.

Runners up accolades and prizes were also awarded to Henry Payne and Archie Finch-Lees in the 7-11 category and Joshua Millington and Francia Besterman in the 12-17 category.

Paul Kirkbright who chaired the exciting competition, commented:

“Shropshire is proud and privileged to have produced a long line of pioneers, from Darwin to the next generation of great thinkers. Whether that is the first cohort of students at University Centre Shrewsbury, or the winners of the Shropshire Young Thinkers’ Competition, we can be assured that our future is in safe hands, with the wealth of home-grown talent at our disposal.”

From social ideas to scientific inventions and moral statements, ranging from under the sea to outer space, the children and young people of Shropshire really rose to the challenge of producing a great idea to change the world.

This is the first event of 20 during the DarwIN Shrewsbury Festival which are taking place around Shrewsbury in celebration of the town’s links to Darwin. Full information about the festival is available at