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NSCG top achiever recognised at inaugural awards ceremony

Huge congratulations to former A Level student, Zachary Edwards, who made it to the final 10 in a brand new national award.

The Association of Colleges (AoC) and exam board AQA this year launched the Student Research Project Award to recognise and celebrate the higher and extended project qualifications.

The awards were developed to raise the profile of the Level 3 Extended Project Qualifications (EPQ) and the Level 2 Higher Project Qualification (HPQ) with an aim to recognise, reward and celebrate the fantastic work developed by students across AoC member colleges.

Zach, who studied Computing, Physics and Maths at Newcastle College also undertook an EPQ in 2022 as his main courses did not involve writing extended essays.

It was this commitment to his studies and his excellent final project work which encouraged his nomination by Lecturer and EPQ Coordinator Laura Brennan, she said: “Zach wanted to develop his extended essay writing skills to support his application to university and to experience academic research and constructing a narrative.

“Zach produced an excellent scientific report with his initial topic ideas around space exploration, eventually focusing on the possible colonisation of Mars.”

Zach's EPQ title was ‘What would be the most appropriate energy source to support the colonisation of Mars?’

“The project investigates the most common methods of energy production on Earth and evaluates how they could be used within the Martian environment,” continued Laura, “Zach synthesised a range of academic and scientific research papers as well as research from NASA with each energy source explored and summarised.”

Zach’s paper was so well written that his EPQ predicted grades garnered university offers as well as a nomination to the AoC and AQA awards in which he made the final 10 out of hundreds of submissions and was invited to a high profile awards ceremony in London on January 24.

His work was praised by AQA Head of Curriculum Jen Obaditch and Eddie Playfair, Senior Policy Manager for AoC though unfortunately he didn’t make the top three.

“Although he didn’t place in first, 2nd or third place, we are so proud of Zach and his commitment to his studies,” said Laura.

“He is an exceptional student and we are sure he will go on to achieve great things.”

Rob Millward, Assistant Director in Academic and Creative Studies, added: "For Zach to be recognised amongst a select group of EPQ students nationally is a fantastic achievement and something that the college and the wider Sixth Form team are extremely proud of.

"Zach has clearly embraced the ethos of the EPQ and been innovative within his approach to create an interesting and exciting piece of writing that can be shared more widely within the college sector to encourage other students to explore new concepts and ideas as part of the EPQ."

Zach is now studying for a degree in Computer Science at the University of Durham and believes that the EPQ has been excellent preparation for this.

To find out more about the study option available at NSCG, visit


Zach (far left) with other finalists, Jen Obaditch, AQA Head of Curriculum and Eddie Playfair, Senior Policy Manager, Association of Colleges