Science and engineering fans help to launch unique £10,000 contest

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Young science and engineering fans at a Fylde coast high school celebrated the launch of an exciting upcoming competition.

Senior pupils at Millfield Science and Performing Arts College in Thornton won £10,000 at The Gazette Young Engineers Challenge this year with their impressive moving cable car structure.

Millfield students Connor Rimell and Emily Hilton with teacher Jutine Azzopardi, Martin York from Centrica, Daryl Platt from Blackpool and the Fylde College, Francis Egan from Cuadrilla and Sue Bentley from Johnston Press

Millfield students Connor Rimell and Emily Hilton with teacher Jutine Azzopardi, Martin York from Centrica, Daryl Platt from Blackpool and the Fylde College, Francis Egan from Cuadrilla and Sue Bentley from Johnston Press

Now the high school is preparing for the next annual competition, which will take place in February next year and will see 26 schools from across the Fylde coast battle it out for the cash prize, which goes towards improving facilities in winning schools.

Justine Azzopardi, stem skills co-ordinator and head of the school’s stem club, said: “It’s a blind competition so we don’t know what the students will have to make until the competition starts.

“We’ve been given a few clues; we’ve been told to research forces, pivots, and lamination if we want an advantage. The students have a few ideas about what it could be, but we don’t want to talk about it too much in case it gives other schools ideas!”

The annual competition has been running for four years and is organised by The Gazette and Blackpool and the Fylde College and sponsored by Centrica Energy and Cuadrilla Resources.

We wanted to help get children involved in science

Competing schools will meet at the Blackpool and The Fylde College advanced technology centre in Bispham on February 5, where they will be challenged to construct moving models out of cardboard, rubber bands, weights, hangers, wooden dowels and a variety of wires and power sources.

Ten lucky finalists will then be invited back to compete for the grand prize on February 26.

Schools can also apply compete in the prestigious Stem Club of the Year section, which offers a separate £2,000 prize.

Francis Egan, CEO of Cuadrilla Resources, said: “We wanted to help get children involved in science and engineering and consider taking them on at university.

Cuadrilla CEO Francis Egan gets his pulse taken by student Lucy Aliison

Cuadrilla CEO Francis Egan gets his pulse taken by student Lucy Aliison

“It’s well known that there’s a large deficit in science and engineering graduates these days. Any company in the UK would tell you that it is unfortunately getting worse.

“Obviously we want children to start having fun with science, but the competition also helps them build teamwork skills that will help prepare them for the big wide world.”

Miss Azzopardi added that the school’s success at two previous Young Engineers competitions has enabled the school to buy the latest high-tech equipment for their science department.

The school used the cash to buy 15 data loggers to help students collect data from experiments quickly, a dynamics system kit, light gates, pH meters, a Geiger-Muller counter, a motion sensor, a heart rate and pulse waveform meter and timing mats.

Cuadrilla CEO Francis Egan with student Lucy Allison

Cuadrilla CEO Francis Egan with student Lucy Allison

They also purchased ‘glass fusion’ for the school’s art department, which
lets students explore their creative sides by merging colourful pieces of glass together.

Miss Azzopardi said: “The amount of learning we now do in a lesson has doubled.

“Usually, collecting the data and writing it up would take up most of the lesson and the students wouldn’t have much time to assess what they had found.

“Now we can get it right away with the data harvesters. It’s made it much more engaging and improved the motivation of students.”

Year 11 pupil Lucy Allison, 15, said: “We can learn about science in books but it’s a lot more effective to be able to see the results in front of you.

I think it’s improved the way people are learning because some people might not find science exciting. This helps make it interesting to everyone.”

Martin York from Centrica with  Ryen Shaw

Martin York from Centrica with Ryen Shaw

The school also used the money from the competition to improve its stem club.

Miss Azzopardi said: “It’s increased the number of events we can run.

“Right now we’re doing an ‘I’m A Scientist... Get Me Out of Here!’ event every week where we built survival structures like bridges, rafts, and water filters. We’re even going to do a bushtucker challenge with edible insects.”

If you want to register your school for the challenge and Stem Club of the Year competition, call The Gazette promotions team on (01253) 361709.

Millfield pupil Sophie Robinson.

Millfield pupil Sophie Robinson.