About the Case Study
It’s a sure sign of success when your project for the Big Bang Competition goes from being judged at the final in the style of TV’s Dragon’s Den to actually appearing on the show.
Sisters Kia and Sky Ballantyne became Junior Engineers of the Year in 2015. While most participants call their Competition entry a project, for them it’s a fully-fledged product: Crikey Bikey. The harness, designed to help parents teach children to ride a bike without falls and scrapes, is now stocked by high street stores.
“Being involved in the Competition has been really useful for us, especially when we speak with buyers,” says Kia. “They often ask what awards our product has received and we are able to tell them about the Big Bang. They are always impressed!”
Kia will soon have GCSEs coming up, and Sky is in Year 9. As their website explains, “We are busy packing and shipping around school hours.”
“We get a lot of homework but we always manage to keep up with our orders and respond to emails as well,” assures Kia. “It has been helpful running the business together because when Sky has a lot on I can take over and vice versa.”
It might sound like any spare time for invention has been hijacked by entrepreneurial skills, but both sisters have always had plans for careers in engineering. “I enjoy making things and I have always liked physics and maths,” explains Kia. “Sky always wanted to be an inventor when she was younger and now she is thinking of combining this with geography which is her favourite subject.”
Sky says the Big Bang Final was the best day of her life and neither of them sound intimidated by the judging process. “They were really interested in our bike harness and some talked to us for ages. It didn’t feel as though they were judging, we just enjoyed talking about our product!”
Most participants see the Big Bang Fair as introduction to STEM subjects in the real world, and the many career opportunities. The Ballantyne sisters saw a platform for their project, alongside huge companies at the same exhibition. “They were really kind to us – they sent their visitors over to our stand to keep us busy.”
After the Final Kia and Sky knew they really wanted to make Crikey Bikey a success. “The process made us believe that our harness could be more than a school project, it could be a real product.”
“I think it gave us the confidence to take some risks,” says Kia on reflection. “It made working on it more exciting because we realised how far we could go with it.”
In suggesting the Competition, little did their physics teacher know just how far it would take them. Looking back, they say they it sounded exciting. “The thought of having people from industry talking to us about our product, and being judged in such a huge venue was awesome. Meeting the celebrities was amazing, as was the opportunity to speak to famous engineers.”
“We also loved going on the stage to collect our award. It was such a massive event and we were so amazed to be there. We will never forget it!”