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Schoolboy is inspired by British film to create FrankEinstein upcycling app – winning major award and £10,000 towards bringing his idea to market

·5-min read

A talented schoolboy has designed an award-winning app giving ingenious ideas for upcycling unwanted items – inspired by the British movie The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.

Calling his app FrankEinstein, Otto Sutton, 11, got the idea for breathing new life into old items after watching the 2019 film in which a young boy from Malawi makes a windmill out of bicycle parts to help save his village’s failing crops.

Otto’s dad, David, 47, who works for the Meteorological Office, explained how people simply need to take a picture of the item they want to trash and the app creates an alternative use for it.

Otto made sandals out of an old tyre. (BT/PA Real Life)
Otto made sandals out of an old tyre. (BT/PA Real Life)

David, of Exeter, Devon, who also has a daughter, Alanna, nine, with wife Tamsin, 46, who works for the Environment Agency, said: “There’s a lot to figure out in terms of how the app will function.

“We’re aiming for a year to get it ready. We’re very proud of Otto.”

And his parents are not the only people to recognise Otto’s incredible achievement.

David and Tamsin say they are very proud of their son. (Collect/PA Real Life)
David and Tamsin say they are very proud of their son. (Collect/PA Real Life)

Seeing a competition calling for people to enter technical solutions for major problems like climate change in May, he entered – only to win the BT Young Pioneer Award as part of Tech4Good 2021, along with £10,000 of funding towards the technical assistance needed to make his app idea a reality.

Explaining how Otto took five months to finalise his plans for FrankEinstein, David said: “He had a lot of great ideas for making useful objects out of discarded things.

“He made sandals out of an old tyre and had the idea for a fire pit from an old washing machine drum.”

Otto, pictured here taking photos for his app. (BT/PA Real Life)
Otto, pictured here taking photos for his app. (BT/PA Real Life)

Taking computing lessons at school, he also practiced with app prototypes, before landing on the idea for FrankEinstein.

Speaking excitedly about his son’s project, David said: “Otto has won £10,000 to fund technical assistance for his app production.

“Last week, we spoke to a member of the digital impact and sustainability team at BT and talked about the plans for the future and how we’re going to make this app a reality.”

The family are now in touch with a technical team at BT to plan the app production. (Collect/PA Real Life)
The family are now in touch with a technical team at BT to plan the app production. (Collect/PA Real Life)

He added: “We’re also using Crowdfunder to help boost funds for it. Everyone’s been so supportive.

“We’ve found the whole experience very humbling, because there were so many great entries. It’s all about using technology to make the world a more inclusive and a better environment. It was incredible getting to hear all the brilliant ideas.

“Everyone who entered the competition is going to do great things, but we’re so proud of Otto for winning his award.”

The family hope the app will be up and running within a year. (Collect/PA Real Life)
The family hope the app will be up and running within a year. (Collect/PA Real Life)

Now the family plan to use their crowdfunded money – currently totalling £570 – to set up an online machine learning suite which, over time, would auto-generate upcycling ideas.

Meanwhile, FrankEinstein will help to repurpose unwanted items which might otherwise end up in landfill.

David continued: “There’s a lot of heavy lifting, so to speak, still to do behind the scenes to get it fully functioning.”

Otto, pictured here with his mum, Tamsin. (BT/PA Real Life)
Otto, pictured here with his mum, Tamsin. (BT/PA Real Life)

He added: “We’re working on a system which aggregates all of the upcycling ideas to a massive database with loads of solutions for different parts, which is taking a long time for us to do.

“We’re aiming for everything to be properly up and running within a year. We’re very, very proud of Otto.”

And the savvy schoolboy hopes his project will encourage people to think differently about waste – viewing it as a creative opportunity, rather than as a problem.

This month, Otto won the BT Young Pioneer Award for his upcycling app idea. (Collect/PA Real Life)
This month, Otto won the BT Young Pioneer Award for his upcycling app idea. (Collect/PA Real Life)

Otto said: “I’m incredibly excited about making my upcycling app idea a reality, to help change the way people think about waste and to have a positive impact on the environment.

“I’ve found the experience interesting, exciting and challenging – and have learnt a lot in a short space of time.”

Marc Allera, CEO of BT’s Consumer Division, said “The creativity, and ingenuity of this year’s entries has been outstanding, and it was incredibly difficult to pick just one winner.”

Otto spent five months finalising his app idea. (BT/PA Real Life)
Otto spent five months finalising his app idea. (BT/PA Real Life)

He added: “We are delighted to announce Otto’s FrankEinstein app as this year’s BT Young Pioneer winner.

“Upcycling, repurposing and helping to save items that would ordinarily head for landfill is an idea that truly captured the spirit of how we can use tech for good to tackle climate change, encouraging us to change the way that we think, buy and use products.

“We’re so proud that the BT Young Pioneer award continues to provide an opportunity for inspiring young people and their incredible ideas to thrive, and we’re looking forward to working with Otto to bring his app to life.”

To donate to Otto’s crowdfunder, visit: crowdfunder.co.uk/frankeinstein

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