Year of Engineering: Encourage children into engineering

Written by: Tom Austin-Morgan | Published:

UWE Bristol and the Ministry of Defence (MOD) have kicked off the Year of Engineering with the launch of a national engineering competition for schools.

The Year of Engineering is a Government-led national campaign to increase awareness among young people, their parents and their teachers of what engineers do. UWE Bristol and the MOD’s Defence, Equipment and Support (DE&S) organisation are the sponsors of the Engineer Leaders Awards taking place in the South West of England.

UWE Bristol will also host the South West competition exhibition at the end of June to help promote the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in schools.

The Engineer Leaders Awards is a competition enabling school pupils to meet and learn from engineering students and professionals, before answering the question “If you were an engineer, what would you do?” By identifying a problem in society that engineering could solve, they are invited to devise a solution and pitch their ideas. The winners’ designs will then be built by engineering students at UWE Bristol.

To launch the competition, DE&S invited school children from the Bristol area to visit their Abbey Wood site and discover some of the kit worked on by its engineers.

Primary school children from Years 4-6 are also being invited to the ‘Children as Engineers’ conference on 7 March to give them a chance to visit the University’s facilities and take part in science activities. Pupils who were involved in UWE Bristol’s Engineering and Society project (involving UWE Bristol trainee teachers and engineer students going into schools to raise awareness about engineering) are invited to bring in their written or drawn design ideas to the morning event. They will then have a chance to pitch these to UWE Bristol engineering students and receive feedback.

Shortlisted and winning entries submitted by primary and secondary school children will then be displayed at an exhibition at the University on 30 June. There will be two winners per year group and an overall winner.

Winning designs will then be built by UWE Bristol engineering students from September 2018. Their aim will be to take the concept, develop the design and build it into a full-scale functioning prototype, giving the school children who entered the competition an insight into the process behind designing and manufacturing a product.

As part of its commitment to encouraging school children to think about future attendance at a university as well as raising awareness about science and engineering career paths, UWE Bristol is actively involved with schools in the local area.

Last September it set up a module on its undergraduate and postgraduate Engineering degrees to teach students about public engagement with engineering and the need to widen the appeal of the profession to girls and boys. The module pairs up student engineers with trainee teachers studying at the University.

As part of the module, 45 of the University’s engineering undergraduates joined forces with 35 UWE Bristol education students to take engineering challenges into 30 primary school classrooms for a day. The event involved over 900 local primary school children, enabling students and children to work together to challenge children’s preconceptions about engineers and the role they play. It also helped support engineering students in their public engagement skills and enabled trainee teachers to develop their knowledge of science teaching.

Laura Fogg-Rogers, who coordinated the event and is Senior Research Fellow in UWE Bristol’s Science Communication Unit said: “Engineers are highly creative people who can help to solve many of society’s problems. It’s a really collaborative profession, where you have to work together in teams to see your visions and designs come to fruition. The range of roles and careers is really diverse, and that’s what we’d like to emphasise to all young people, particularly girls. You can make your own mark in engineering!”

Schools can register for the Engineer Leaders Awards at www.leadersaward.com.


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