Young & inspired: a Buckinghamshire student headed for the stars

An inspired 16-year-old from Buckinghamshire won a £5,000 UK Space Agency competition thanks to her potentially life-saving idea to utilise satellite technology to help heart attack victims.

Isla Richards is the daughter of Liz and Alexander, who run ALR Training, a Buckinghamshire Business First member and medical and first aid training company based in Swanbourne, Milton Keynes. It was Liz who spotted the UK Space Agency competition promoted in the Buckinghamshire Business First newsletter, and Isla took it from there.

The competition called for those aged 11 to 22 to come up with ways that satellite technology could help to improve life on Earth. Isla’s idea centred on tapping into heart monitors and health and activity trackers worn by individuals to identify when someone is in a state of peri-arrest, the stage before a cardiac arrest. By employing the use of trilateration, where the timing signals of three satellites are used to pinpoint a specific location on Earth, these monitors and trackers would be located via their GPS signals, increasing the chances of heart attack victims being reached before it’s too late.

This idea won Isla her age group, as judged by a panel made up of representatives from the UK Space Agency, the Satellite Applications Catapult in Harwell and industry. So what inspired her idea in the first place? “My parents run a medical training company and my dad is a paramedic, so that was part of it,” Isla explains. “And my great granddad had a heart condition.”

The importance of inspiration

Buckinghamshire is full of young people with great futures who are inspired by science and technology, something typified by Isla, who is studying triple science for her GCSEs and plans to continue that path for her A-Levels.

“It’s important to have inspiring people around you,” says Isla when asked how we can all support young people to grow up interested in science. “Having inspiring teachers is great, and people like Brian Cox, people who are engaging. My granddad was very interested in it too.”

Isla has been invited to pitch her idea to a panel of ‘dragons’ - experts in the space industry – which could even lead to her idea being turned into a reality. For now though, Isla says she will save £4,000 of her winnings for university and the rest will go towards a new laptop.

A newsletter full of advice & support 

The Buckinghamshire Business First newsletter is a fortnightly round-up of the latest business news, member news, events, funding opportunities and business support. Isla’s story is just one example of the positives that can come from being engaged with the support and advice that’s available.

As Isla’s mum Liz says: “I have one very happy and excited daughter - thank you!”

And as the Head of Applications Strategy at the UK Space Agency, Emily Gravestock, said of Isla: “We think she has real potential as a space entrepreneur of the future.”

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