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Abi with her award

Five tips to win McLaren's Innovation Challenge in the 2017 Telegraph STEM Awards

With the deadline to enter The 2017 Telegraph STEM Awards less than a week away, here are five tips from last year's winner, Abi Wetton to catch the judges’ attention. 

1. Don’t worry about the technical detail, have a clear vision

Yes, it’s important to think and plan your idea in detail, but the judges aren’t expecting the technical specifications of your idea, nor are they expecting you to save the world with it. But they do want to understand your vision, and how it would work practically in the real world. I didn’t know intricate engineering behind rail structure, but I could clearly articulate my vision. Also, thinking about the commercial side of things such as potential costs of barriers can help.

This year’s challenge is about how autonomous vehicles could communicate with passengers in the future, so focus on original idea that will spark the judges’ interest. I would personally go for an idea that would genuinely improve people’s lives – think about the entire passenger experience. 

2. Thoroughly research McLaren

This is one of the more obvious tips, but it’s important. The judges noticed that I knew details about the companies within McLaren and their capabilities. I was able to use the knowledge from my research to talk about where my idea would fit into their business.

Spend an hour or two scanning through McLaren's websites and social media channels to find out what the companies have been doing over the past twelve months, and to find out about their current and future plans. Due to all the exciting things going on across the business, this for me was definitely one of the easier parts of the preparation to get stuck into. 

3. Demonstrate passion for your idea

You need to stand out from the many applications that McLaren will receive, and one of the ways I tried to do that was to show the judges that my idea, and the change it could make in the world meant more to me than winning the competition itself.

The judges said the passion I demonstrated for improving people’s lives was aligned with their ethos, and that it stood out.

4. Think of real world examples

Remember that they will go through many applications, so the simpler you can articulate your idea and convey its meaning and purpose, the better chance you stand of progressing to the next stage. Even if you don’t have real-life experiences yourself, think of and research personas or situations you could apply the idea to. 

5. Have confidence in yourself

I’ll admit that when I first applied, I thought I didn’t stand a chance of getting past the first round, let alone winning the category. Once I progressed onto the second round and at each stage after, my confidence grew.

I believe one of the main reasons why I won last year is because I knew my idea inside out, and had rehearsed my presentation many times. Visiting the McLaren Technology Centre for the first time can be overwhelming as well as exciting. So make sure you are well prepared before the big day and concentrate on making the most of the opportunity ahead, whatever happens. 

Good luck to all of you that are entering the McLaren innovation category. My last tip is to just enjoy the whole experience because it has changed my life for the better, and I hope it does the same for you.