A Central Bedfordshire business is challenging pupils from all over the county to take on real life engineering problems in a bid to drive up participation in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects and careers.
The one-day activities are being run in schools across Bedfordshire by local technology firm Lockheed Martin UK Ampthill and educational charity The Smallpeice Trust.
More than 60 pupils from Mark Rutherford Upper School and Alban Academy have just taken on the challenge, spending a day designing and creating a system to recycle water on a new smart building.
In small teams they had to create a watertight container to collect and filter rainwater, before assembling and soldering an electronic water detector. They also had to make an electronic pump to transfer the water to another container, which could then be recycled to water plants or flush toilets in the building.
The students had to work within strict time and budgetary constraints and also had to create a company name, logo, and marketing poster. The challenge was competitive, with pupils being judged on design, effectiveness, presentation skills and teamwork.
Oliver Westbrook-Netherton, an engineering graduate at Lockheed Martin UK’s Ampthill site, supported the day. He said: “Finding a way to filter and recycle water, and creating that system as part of a smart building, is a real-life, 21st century engineering challenge. A project like this helps the students connect what they learn in the classroom with what actually happens in a working environment.
“I was really impressed with the ideas the students came up with and the enthusiasm and ability they showed as they turned their designs into working systems.
“Engaging young people in creative challenges like these helps inspire a new generation and shows the wide-ranging possibilities of STEM careers.”
Other local schools, including Samuel Whitbread Academy and Arnold Academy, have taken on the challenge over recent weeks. They are part of a series of events that Lockheed Martin UK is delivering with The Smallpeice Trust across the country.
Gemma Murphy, Corporate Partnerships Manager at Smallpeice said: “It’s been great to team up with Lockheed Martin to provide inspirational STEM challenges in schools.
“The students get to put theory into practice and the tasks they take on really do inspire them to think about future education and career options. They also get to put their creative thinking into action, learn time management, teamwork, problem-solving, personal and social skills.”
The schools have all been given free Think Kits as part of the support from Lockheed Martin, containing everything they need to start and run a STEM club for up to 20 pupils. Over a term, students can design and build a propelled glider, which they’ll try and keep in the air and travelling the furthest distance for as long as possible.
Image: Pupils from Mark Rutherford Upper School and Alban Academy with their smart water systems