Inspiring young people to get up to speed with engineering

SELA student demonstrating one of the exhibitsOver 2,000 school children from across South Yorkshire have been getting hands-on with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Manufacturing) with the help of Engineering students from the University of Sheffield.

The students, who are part of the Sheffield Engineering Leadership Academy (SELA), created 'Think Inside the Box', an interactive exhibition to showcase the role engineers play in shaping the world around us. The exhibition formed the centrepiece of the Get Up to Speed with STEM event held on 18 April 2018 at the Magna Science Centre in Rotherham. Other exhibitors included engineering firms Liberty Steel, the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and AESSeal

Get up to Speed is an interactive event aimed at showcasing the science, technology, engineering and manufacturing sectors, and the varied and exciting employment opportunities available in these sectors, to young people, their parents and educators. It is driven by employers in the region and delivered through the work-wise Foundation.

Think Inside the Box was an idea conceived, designed and delivered by the SELA students, showcasing nine engineering disciplines through engaging with nine interactive boxes.

As part SELA’s exhibition, the children were able to experience a virtual reality flight through the solar system, as well as learning how to design earthquake-resistant buildings and trying their hand at key-hole surgery. They also met Wobbly, a self-balancing robot demonstrating automated control; raced against the clock to wire up a control panel to launch a space rocket; discovered how fractional distillation produces rocket fuel; and explored how different materials are used in aviation.

They also got a chance to enter the 'Theatre of Engineering' to see a film produced by the SELA students, which showed how different engineering disciplines work together in the design and construction of a space rocket.

Ben Sharp, Project Co-Director and chemical engineering student at the University of Sheffield, said: 'Think Inside the Box was a really exciting opportunity for us to share our passion for engineering with the next generation. It was great to show so many young people how they can apply the maths and science they learn in school to solve real problems and make a positive difference. It was also a great opportunity for us to practice and apply the skills we learn through SELA, and especially networking, as we met other exhibitors at the event.'

Head of SELA, Dr Gary Wood, added: 'It was fantastic to see our young engineers in SELA sharing their enthusiasm for engineering with people just a few years younger. It was such a powerful way for young people to realise what’s possible in their futures, and to encourage them to see engineering as an option.

'We need increasing numbers of engineers, so events like Get Up To Speed are really important. We are really grateful to WorkWise for hosting Get Up To Speed, and for giving SELA the opportunity to be involved.'