Igniting the spark in the next generation

The next generation of scientists, engineers and construction specialists will come together to take part in a week-long series of innovative challenges and workshops being held at Northampton College.

The Construction Engineering Festival will take place from June 17 to June 21 at the college’s Booth Lane headquarters and will see students from schools across the county have a go at challenges set by Tomorrow’s World presenter Maggie Philbin and Gabriel Stroud, a former winner of Robot Wars.

Teams will also be asked to design and install a hot water system capable of running a shower and emerge as part of The Big Rig – a low carbon challenge which first took place as a standalone event at the college last year.

Principal of Northampton College, Pat Brennan-Barrett, said: “The success of last year’s inaugural event showed the appetite for STEM subjects in Northamptonshire and we look forward to igniting the spark in a new set of students and inspire them to consider science, construction or engineering courses in the future.

“The event recognizes the power of partnerships between education and industry, providing pupils with the opportunity to learn directly from those actively working in STEM-related careers. We want to create a future workforce capable of thinking for themselves, solving problems quickly and efficiently and using technology to create innovative new ways of doing business.”

The festival will feature an innovation workshop led by the award-winning, industry-led organisation TeenTech. The session will help students better understand the concept of ‘connected cities’ and they will be challenged to design a device for the ‘internet of things’.

Gabriel Stroud, team captain of winning Robot Wars challenger ‘Sabretooth’, will discuss his career and how he acquired the skills to build a successful fighting robot.

Sophie Dale, from Kettering Buccleuch Academy – one of the schools due to take part in the festival – said: “These events are invaluable when it comes to igniting a spark in our future generation and encouraging them into much-needed STEM careers.”

Students will also get the chance to enjoy a series of taster sessions to experience what life could be like on a STEM course at college, with opportunities to try a virtual welding simulator, build a brick wall, get to grips with plumbing techniques and use scientific theories to predict volcanic eruptions.

The festival is being backed by a host of local employers, eager to meet their potential future workforce. Companies represented include Kier, Briggs & Forrester, Higgins, Opus Energy, Taylor Wimpey and Metcalf Commercial Decorators.

Paul Nelson, from sponsors Kier, said: “There is a major skills gap in the construction industry and events such as The Big Rig are vital in inspiring the next generation, giving students an opportunity to get hands-on and gain invaluable experience of a replicated workplace environment.”

Northampton College will open a £4.75million Advanced Construction Engineering (ACE) Centre at Booth Lane later this year. The centre will help train the next generation of construction industry professionals including builders, plumbers, carpenters and decorators and teach pioneering new techniques aimed at equipping future workers with the very latest skills.

Alongside courses which focus on craft skills there will also be courses at Level 3 for those looking for supervisory, technician or management careers in the sector, such as in Civil Engineering, Building Services Engineering, or Project Management.

For more information about courses available in STEM subjects at Northampton College visit www.northamptoncollege.ac.uk.