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STEM Challenge Day


24th February 2010

Fifty year 8 students got a first hand experience of the exciting work done by science graduates when they attended North Somerset’s first STEM Challenge Day, at the Winter Gardens. The day aimed to raise aspirations and awareness of STEM careers, link what’s taught in the classroom to the world of work, and develop teamwork and creative thinking skills.


The day was opened by Science Made Simple’s Huw James who gave the ‘Rough Guide to Engineering’ interactive show. Student’s found out how engineers design cars that go hundreds of miles an hour, build structures that can survive earthquakes, and cook food using only mirrors! One student commented: “It was fun watching the experiments and I learnt about different engineers.”


Students then worked in school teams on an STEM challenge – to design, build and test a wind turbine – delivered by the Louise Duncan from the Smallpeice Trust. Students enjoyed the challenges posed by working in a group: “I enjoyed working with people who aren't necessarily my friends at school to come up with an effective design that included all of our ideas.” This sentiment was shared by someone else: “It was fun and interactive. It helped us with our teamwork skills.”


Students also appreciated the creative aspect to the challenge: “It was a great way of finding out about engineering, and it was creative and good fun.” Another student commented “We did something creative and fun.”


Throughout the challenge the teams were supported by David Grice, an engineer who works for Bristol based Garrad Hassan designing and building wind turbines. David gave three top tips to teams before they started and provided expert advice once the challenge was underway. It was a great opportunity for students to work with an engineer, as one student put it: “Dave the turbine helper was amazing!”


Whilst the teams were busy working on the challenge, the teachers undertook some CPD delivered by Helen Martin, the local authorities Science Advisor, on how to take the days activities back into the classroom.


The day concluded by testing each team’s turbine. The competitive element didn’t stop everyone cheering each team to success. Every team successfully completed the challenge and produced a working wind turbine, and all students were awarded with a certificate. ChurchillSchool won the main challenge, and each team member walked away with a £10 Cribbs Causeway voucher and a lego USB stick. Flip Side magazines were given to PriorySchool team members for getting highest marks in the STEM quiz.


Feedback from students and teachers indicates the day was a huge success. Asked to say what they liked about the day one student wrote: “It brought us together as a school team and also taught us about engineering.” When asked the same question a teacher commented: “The day challenged and engaged students. I was a little surprised at how well the groups worked together, it was very good. I also managed to steal some ideas!”

Full evaluation of this event

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