2014 STEM Awards Construction category winner Daniel Butters

The STEM Awards is a unique opportunity for talented STEM undergraduates to get their ideas in front of some of the most influential companies in industry – and potentially win £25,000 and a bespoke mentoring programme in the process.

Physicist, Daniel Butters, was successful in the 2014 construction category. Here he shares inside information and experience for this year’s hopefuls.

How did you first hear about the STEM Awards?

I was catching a train and just happened to see something about STEM in the Telegraph and thought I’d buy it to give me something to read. I was surprised to see the advert but thought I’d check it out online anyway.

What made you apply?

Initially the £25,000 prize money, but the further I progressed through the competition I realised what a great opportunity it was and something to write on my CV!

What was the application process like?

There were five categories to choose from, each with a different brief, so I read them all before deciding on two that I thought I had ideas for: Construction and Pharmaceuticals. After deciding that I would be better going for the Construction brief, I wrote the 1,000 word essay, including graphs and some rough calculations and submitted it online.
Some weeks later I received a phone call to say that my essay had been chosen to go through to the final. I then had to submit another essay, developing my idea further, by mid-May. In early June I was invited down to London, staying in a fancy hotel in Kensington, and asked to present for 20 minutes in front of senior staff/the CEO from Babcock International.  

What did you get out of it?

Although I didn’t win the £25,000, I still get lots from the experience which will be great for my CV. I’m now more confident, particularly with public speaking. I got to speak with senior staff from large organisations and managed to secure a two week work experience placement with Atkins. More recently I’ve been offered a paid 11 week placement over the Summer, largely due to my experiences with the STEM Awards.
I now have the confidence to go for other opportunities, internships and competitions, and feel more motivated with my course. I also got to meet Rachel Riley.

What advice would you give to other students?

If I was doing it again, I’d probably apply with a team because travelling down to London and presenting on your own is pretty scary (although still fun!). I also think you have a better chance of winning the main prize.

In terms of choosing a category, don’t worry if your course isn't directly related to the brief as they judge it purely on your idea and how well you explain it. At the awards event I was talking to Steve Tasker (Managing Director at Atkins) who judged my essay, and he said that there were essays with possibly better ideas and essays that may have had more correct science. However he chose my essay because the idea was original and the essay flowed well while also explaining the concept and the science clearly.

Although the time commitment wasn’t too much, the deadlines and presentation dates may be close to exams, particularly for second and third years. Overall though, I’d definitely encourage anyone to give it a go, because you don’t know what other opportunities it may lead to.

Further informtaion on the 2015 awards programme is available on the Telegraph website