The only way is ‘upcycling’ for Otto Sutton, 11, winner of this year’s BT Young Pioneer Award

A schoolboy from Exeter has won a national competition in search of finding tech solutions to help tackle climate change, with his ingenious upcycling app idea, ‘FrankEinstein’.

Otto Sutton, 11, had been named the winner of the BT Young Pioneer Award as part of the AbilityNet Tech4Good Awards and will receive up to £10,000 in funding and support from BT experts with the skills to help bring his idea, the FrankEinstein app to reality.

Upcycling is a trend that’s been prolific throughout the pandemic, with many households spending more time at home, with perhaps more time to think about replacing or updating products they might use every day. This trend not only helps in reducing the amount of waste in the environment, but also transforms something that had no perceived benefit to a functional tool with artistic or environmental value.

Otto’s inspiration, came to him after watching the movie ‘The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind’, which sees a young boy make a windmill out of bicycle parts to help save his village’s failing crops.  Realising the opportunity to make helpful and useful objects out of old materials, Otto then took five months to finalise his plans for FrankEinstein.

Based on Victor Frankenstein and Albert Einstein, Otto came up with his brand name and the emphasis of the ‘E’ is to promote the environmental benefits of the app. The app works by simply taking a photo of a product and then responding to the user with suggestions on how the product, or its components can be upcycled. An example could be ‘Why not turn these bike tyres into sandals following these instructions? or ‘Why not turn this old washing machine drum into a fire pit?’

There are other websites, like ‘instructables’, that tell you how you can make something, but not what you can make. Other platforms, e.g. ‘freecycle’ promote reuse through giving goods away, but Otto’s FrankEinstein solution proactively links these two areas, building a valuable database of products that can be made from spare parts in the process.

Otto Sutton said, “I can’t believe I’ve won! I’m incredibly excited about bringing my upcycling app idea into a reality, to help change the way people think about waste and to make a positive impact on the environment. There’s a lot of work to do but it’ll be worth it and it’s great knowing I have BT experts on hand to help set my project on the right track. I’ve found the experience interesting, exciting and challenging – and have learnt a lot in a short space of time”.

Marc Allera, CEO 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. 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 ordinally 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 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.”

BT co-founded the Tech4Good awards with AbilityNet over 10 years ago, to recognise organisations and individuals who use digital tech to improve the lives of others, and to help to make the world a better place. This year, BT encouraged young people, aged between 9-18 years old, to gear their innovative tech ideas towards tackling climate change.


The Exeter Daily