The Armourers and Brasiers Sixth Form Materials Prize has been designed to give learners structured opportunities to find out about materials science and engineering outside their normal lessons.  It can be run as a formal extra-curricular activity led by a teacher or learners can work through the Prize modules independently.  In both cases a sustained commitment of approximately 12 hours is required.

Who can take part?

The competition is open to year 11 and year 12 (or equivalent) students from the UK studying that have an interest in pursuing a STEM career.   The students must make a commitment to engaging with the project and devoting a minimum time of around 12 hours to learning more about materials. There is no limit to the number of students that can take part in the competition from one school, however you may only nominate up to five students to enter each year for the national competition.

Although the competition was originally designed to be run as an extra-curricular group activity run by a teacher, the competition can be carried out by students independently.

How does the Prize work?

The Prize was orinigally designed so that the modules could be guided by either science or design & technology teachers (although in an ideal world the two departments would work together as materials is such a multidisciplinary subject!), as part of a formal extra-curricular activity.  However, the resources are such that many schools offer the competition as an opportunity for their students to work through the modules independently with support if and when needed.

A full pack of support materials will be provided including detailed notes and ideas for activities which can all be done with everyday materials and equipment that most schools already have.

Participants must compile a Portfolio of Experiences based on two compulsory and two optional modules which are designed to give learners a better understanding of the importance of materials science and engineering in society and some knowledge of the fundamental science of materials, enhancing what they might study in their lessons.

The themes of the modules are as follows:

  • Module 1 - Fundamentals and materials science and materials careers
  • Modules 2 & 3 - Choose two from Materials in Aerospace, Biomaterials, Sports Materials, Materials in Energy Applications, Smart Materials, and Nanotechnology
  • Module 4 - Individual research project, including preparation and delivery of a 10 minute presentation.

Each module should take approximately 3 hours to complete.  The aim is to complete one module every half term but you may work through the modules at a pace which is best suited to your situation. The amount of content in the modules decreases through the competition as we appreciate that, under normal circumstances coursework and exam revision must take precedence during the spring/summer terms. The only stipulation is that the portfolios of your nominated candidates must be submitted by the closing date at the latest; you are welcome to send them in earlier if you wish.

The learners collect the results of their research and experimentation in their portfolio and should be encouraged to build up a collection of articles and reports relating to other ‘materials experiences’ that they have had. These could include open days, taster courses, visiting speakers, television programmes or news articles from the web.  We decided against providing rigid guidelines around the form of the portfolio so that participants are free to present their work in their own way, in as creative a style as they like.  Our only requirement is that portfolios should be in A4 format.


What is in the modules?

The content of the modules has been designed to compliment the school curriculum and give learners an opportunitiy to delve more deeply into materials science and engineering.  Students must complete four modules:

Module 1

What is Materials Science and Engineering?

This is a compulsory module that aims to introduce students to the subject of materials science and engineering, give them an appreciation of why it is important to understand the processing, structure and properties of materials and highlight careers available in the field.


Modules 2 & 3

Modules two and three are option modules designed to give students the chance to investigate an area of materials that is of interest to them.  Students must choose two of the following:

OPTION A    Materials in aerospace
Students will explore the materials used in turbofan jet engines.  At the end of this module students should be able to:

-  Explain in simple terms how a turbofan engine works.
-  Explain the key factors affecting materials selection for the fan, compressor and turbine sections of the engine.
-  Explain how a change in processing technique has allowed larger, lighter fan blades to be made.
-  Explain how control of processing, microstructure and chemical composition has improved turbine blade technology.

OPTION B    Materials in medicine
Students will investigate the area of biomaterials and how modern materials are helping to improve our quality of life.  At the end of this session students should be able to:
-  Explain in simple terms the main requirements of a biomaterial
-  Describe how the materials used in total hip replacements have changed.
-  Explain in simple terms how materials are used in tissue engineering
-  Describe briefly some of the other body parts that can be replaced and the materials used.

OPTION C    Materials in sport
Students will explore how modern materials have helped to improve the performance of athletes.  At the end of this session students should be able to:
-  Recall how composites the required properties for a number of applications can be designed.
-  Materials can be used to protect the body from impact.
-  Describe the evolution of the materials used in one particular sport, for example bicycles.
OPTION D    Smart materials
Students will explore the different groups of smart materials and their properties.  At the end of this session students should be able to:
-  Explain simply the definition of a smart material.
-  Understand how thermochromic polymers work and where they might be used.
-  Understand how shape memory metals work and where they may be used.
-  Understand how piezoelectric ceramics work and where they may be used.
-  Understand how Quantum Tunnelling Composite works and where it may be used.

OPTION E    Nanotechnology
Students will explore the relatively new field of Nanotechnology.  At the end of this session students should be able to:
-  Define the nanoscale using key example to describe a particular size range.
-  Describe an example of nanotechnology from nature and how this has been copied using man-made nanomaterials.
-  Describe how nanocoatings can be used to clean surfaces, make surfaces scratch resistant or give a surface a smoother appearance.
-  Describe how nanocomposites can be used to improve the performance of tennis balls, clothing and structural materials.
-  Appreciate how nanomaterials can be made and the issues associated with this.

OPTION F    Fuelling the future
The aim of this module is to consider the advantages and disadvantages of traditional fuels and allow students to explore and compare alternatives which could fuel our future.  At the end of the module students should be able to: 
-  Explain how we have come to be so reliant on fossil fuels
-  Give three alternatives to fossil fuels with their advantages and disadvantages
-  Describe how a hydrogen fuel cell works

Module 4

The fourth and final module of the project brings everything together and students must carry out an individual research project on a material of their choice.
The work must consider all aspects of the material – its structure, properties, how it is processed, where it is used and how it has changed or may change the technology we rely on.

Stage 1 – Choose and research a topic
Students must identify a material and carry out their research.  

Stage 2 – Prepare presentation
Students must prepare their ten minute PowerPoint presentation.

Stage 3 – Presentations
Where possible, students must deliver their presentation to their peers.  Staff should judge the presentations and use the results along with the portfolios to decide the candidates that will be entered to the national competition.

How is the Prize judged?

Although we encourage students to work through the Prize individually, all entries must be submitted by a teacher.  If more than five students have taken part from one school the teacher should conduct some preliminary judging, assessing the students on the basis of their portfolio and presentation, and nominate a maximum of 5 candidates to go forward to the national competition.  You should use our standard judging form to assist you with this.  The portfolios of the nominated candidates, accompanied by an official entry form, should be submitted to IOM3 by the closing date.

All portfolios submitted on or before the closing date will be judged and four finalists selected.   The four  finalists will be informed, via their school, by the end of October.

The finalists will be invited to give their presentations to the panel of judges at Armourers’ Hall in London in early December.  The first prize will be awarded on the basis of the portfolio and presentation combined and an additional prize will be awarded for the best portfolio. The prizes will be presented to all the winners and finalists at a special ceremony on the same day.

The judging panel will be made up of representatives from the Armourers and Brasiers, Tata Steel and the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining and the judges’ decision is final.

What are the prizes?

The winning students and their schools will receive prizes as follows:




First prize



Best portfolio prize £250 £250

Two runners up

£100 each



Register to take part

Registrations are now open for the 2022 compeition

Register now