Exciting final sees St Mary’s walk away with a fantastic £10,000 prize

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They’re Blackpool’s scientists and engineers of the future, and these schoolchildren are already turning heads in the engineering world.

Pupils in years nine and ten from schools across Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre were tasked with designing and building a wind powered buggy, using just basic materials, for The Gazette’s science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) Skills Challenge.

It was an exciting final at Blackpool and The Fylde College on Thursday, as teams raced their vehicles to see whose would travel the furthest using precise engineering and an electric fan.

In the end, it was the team from St Mary’s Catholic High School which came away winners, earning their school a £10,000 prize to spend on STEM equipment and a £20 gift voucher each.

Science teacher Kate Seddon said: “This is a massive thing for us at St Mary’s. We’ve just started a STEM class this year, and it’s exciting to be able to go back and tell the rest of the school that we won.

“A lot of thinking has gone into our vehicle – even the night before the contest the team was thinking about what could be done to improve the buggy.

“We hope this will encourage pupils to do things like this in the future, particularly as a career. We’ve got a few of our team thinking about what they want to do in the future.”

On the winning team were Tristan Brattley-Farnell, 14, Tierney O’Rourke, 14, Christina Hirst, 14, and Toby Ashton, 13.

Toby said: “We were joking all through the competition that we wouldn’t win it. It was a big surprise to be announced winners.”

Christina added: “We’re really happy to have won.

“We don’t know what we’ll do with the money. We’ll probably consult with the school when we get back.”

The event was sponsored by Centrica Energy and Cuadrilla Resources.

Cuadrilla’s chief executive, Francis Egan, said: “This event has been such fun, and it gets better every year.

“The kids here are so enthusiastic about it, and it’s great to see more girls here this year than we’ve seen before.

“The St Mary’s team was a worthy winner, but everyone got better as the competition went on.

“The enthusiasm at this event has been really infectious.”

Runners up were pupils from Montgomery High School, who were given £2,000 for their school and each also received a gift voucher from Centrica.

Blackpool and the Fylde College principal and chief executive Bev Robinson said: “STEM is absolutely critical to Blackpool and the Fylde, to Lancashire and to UK plc. If we can help children take up STEM opportunities, that’s something we are very happy to support.

“The collaboration between The Gazette, the college and Cuadrilla and Cenrica has been fantastic and has opened up the eyes of young people to the opportunities around STEM.”