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European STEM students bring the circular economy to Mars

13 May 2022

For its 13th edition, the European Sci-Tech Challenge brought more than 30 students to Mars and tasked them with the challenge to come up with ideas to manage and valorise the waste generated by astronauts.

The Sci-Tech Challenge, a partnership between ExxonMobil and JA Europe, aims to empower young people to tackle the challenges of tomorrow by using a combination of entrepreneurship and STEM skills. The 2022 Grand Finale brought together the winners of the national Si-Tech challenges, that took place earlier this year in Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy and the Netherlands.

The jury, composed of Carlos Monreal, Founder & CEO of Plastic Energy; Vera Pinto Gomes, Policy Coordinator at DG DEFIS, European Commission; Xavier Milcent, EU/AP Chemical Recycling Ventures Commercial Manager at ExxonMobil; and Antonella Sopranzetti, EU Affairs Manager at ExxonMobil, selected the idea of the ‘Space Ducks of Prague as the winner of Sci-Tech Challenge 2022. The students took the challenge to the next level and thought out of the box, by dealing with the waste produced by previous space exploration missions, and re-use for Mars colonies.

Inspired by the student pitches, the speakers at the panel discussion reflected upon the role of STEM skills for tomorrow’s jobs, with a focus on the future of the circular economy.

William Neale, Adviser on Circular Economy and Green Growth for the European Commission's Environment Directorate General, said that “changing from linear to circular economy requires systemic change, including skills and mindset! It is worth it as it can deliver on our climate and biodiversity objectives whilst creating value and jobs.”

Sharing his personal story, Philippe Ducom, President of ExxonMobil Europe, said that “[he] got in contact to STEM from an early age, witnessing [his] dad working in the lab, and [is] now honoured to have the opportunity to pass on this passion for science and hear the voices of the next generation of STEM leaders. It’s inspiring to see young people interested in helping our society progress and improving the lives of people in Europe and beyond.”

Salvatore Nigro, CEO of JA Europe, added that “STEM skills, combined with an entrepreneurship mindset, will empower young people to become the leaders and actors who will bring change and provide solutions to the complex challenges Europe is facing.”

About JA Europe

JA Europe is the largest organisation in Europe dedicated to preparing young people for employment and entrepreneurship. JA Europe is a member of JA Worldwide® which for 100 years has delivered hands on, experiential learning in entrepreneurship, work readiness and financial literacy. JA creates pathways for employability, job creation and financial success. Together we work in 41 countries in Europe, offering 4 million learning experiences every year in core programmes and inspiring millions more through online events and activities.

About ExxonMobil

ExxonMobil, one of the largest publicly traded international energy companies, uses technology and innovation to help meet the world’s growing energy needs. ExxonMobil holds an industry-leading inventory of resources, is one of the largest refiners and marketers of petroleum products, and its chemical company is one of the largest in the world. To learn more, visit exxonmobil.com and the Energy Factor Europe, and follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

About the Sci-Tech Challenge

The Sci-Tech Challenge is designed to motivate students, aged 15-18, to consider science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)-oriented careers, and to raise their awareness of the importance of their STEM skills and how they can be applied in enterprising ways to tackle the challenges of tomorrow. Every year, more than a thousand students from across Europe take part in a year-long programme focusing on combining STEM education with a practical entrepreneurial experience. The joint initiative by JA Europe and ExxonMobil runs for the 13th consecutive year and has involved more than 60.000 students so far.

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