The next generation of engineers have been put to the test at Newcastle College’s Rail Academy, in a competition organised by the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) North East.
The ICE Inspire competition, sponsored by Bam Nuttall (Gold Sponsors) and Capita (Silver Sponsors), aims to combat the skills shortage in the UK engineering industry by inspiring a new generation into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). Now in its third year, it tests pupils aged 11-13 on their creativity and research skills, while giving them insight into what a career in STEM could look like for them.
For this year’s entries, secondary schools across the North East were invited to produce a two-minute video to inspire civil engineers of the future, with the top six groups selected to take part in the final at the Rail Academy.
The finalists were tasked with designing, building and testing a waterproof shelter with limited materials and a set budget, guided by Built Environment students from Newcastle College who were on hand to offer structural advice.
A judging panel made up of local engineers and ICE representatives including the President of the ICE, Professor Lord Robert Mair, awarded points based on design, group contribution, originality and ingenuity, use of the budget, structural integrity and aesthetics.
Prof. Mair said: “I thoroughly enjoyed the competition, as it was a great opportunity for me to see the future of engineering talent in the North East. The teams worked incredibly hard on their designs, making choosing a winner a difficult task.”
Corbridge Middle School scooped the top prize, winning £500 for their school and a £50 voucher for each member of the team.
Gaynor Walker Thomas, Leader of Art and Design Technology at the school told how proud she was to lead an all-female team to the top, saying: “I’m really proud of the team, especially that they’re all girls within an engineering competition. I’ve watched them work today and they’ve been absolutely great the way they’ve worked together and communicated as a team.
“The Rail Academy was an ideal venue for the competition, I wasn’t aware it existed but I’m really impressed with the facilities and it’s great that the pupils have been able to visit and see it in action.”
ICE is an influential professional membership body which supports 90,000 engineers nationwide, sharing knowledge and encouraging innovation within the industry. It aims to raise the profile of civil engineering by working with schools and universities. Newcastle College was chosen to host the final at its state of the art Rail Academy in Gateshead, part of a wider Transport Academy comprising rail, automotive, energy and aviation.
Last year, the College was awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for the development of its Transport Academy, which aims to support the transport infrastructure of the North East and wider region by addressing the significant skills shortage in the sector and deliver engineers of the future.
The College has always placed great emphasis on working closely with industry and hosting the Inspire final is just one example of the work it does to encourage more children into STEM related subjects. It is currently working to increase the number of women in engineering, who currently make up just 11% of the workforce*.
Charlotte Joyce, Director of Engineering and Transport at Newcastle College was named Institute of Engineering and Technology Young Woman Engineer of the Year in 2011. She commented: “We were really pleased to host the competition at our purpose built Rail and Civil Engineering facility, it’s a fantastic event which we hope has inspired the next generation of engineers.
“Part of our provision is working closely with industry to ensure our students are offered the best in terms of facilities and opportunities. Our relationship with ICE is just one example of this. We hope that we’ve inspired some of the students here today and they might join us on our STEM courses in the future.”
Ross Preston, a Level 3 Construction Built Environment Student in his first year, who volunteered at the event said: “Today I’ve been supervising the school groups, giving them structural advice and helping them find faults in their designs. I’ve really enjoyed the day and being creative - some of the students and their designs were really impressive. I’ve found it a good opportunity to test some of the situational skills I’ve learnt on my course so far.”
Find out about opportunities in Rail Engineering at Newcastle College.