Nurturing the talent of tomorrow

Posted on 21 Oct 2014 by Victoria Fitzgerald

Scarborough's annual Engineering Week, aimed at encouraging youngsters to consider careers in STEM has just held its most successful event, attracting over 3000 schoolchildren and young students.

On October 20 over 30 organisations, mostly from the Yorkshire region, put on educational and fun displays about careers in engineering today.

Many exhibits were hands-on and interactive, such as the rocket-powered supersonic Bloodhound car which is being constructed to break the world land speed record, robotic arm demonstrations where you could try to beat the robot at basketball, virtual reality simulations of new equipment designs that allowed you to assemble and disassemble parts, and simulating the control of a mining vehicle, a topical display given the current local project to start a potash mine near Scarborough.

Peter Wilkinson of the lead organiser Unison Ltd said: “The UK urgently needs more engineers and technologists, and attracting more of today’s youngsters to enter these professions is critical.

“Scarborough Engineering Week shows how interesting STEM careers can be – and it’s helping to support the dynamic engineering hotspot that exists in the Scarborough area.

“The young students really love the interactive nature of this event, and who knows, maybe this country’s next Michael Faraday or Isambard Kingdom Brunel was among the visitors.”

Over three days, more than 3000 schoolchildren and teachers, plus more at evening public sessions, toured the exhibition.

Among many interactive and hands-on displays were simulators from Forum Energy Technologies to control ROVs (remote operated vehicles) for subsea work, an ingenious look at the development of food processing automation from McCain Foods in the form of a wacky potato washing machine, a novel type of computer-controlled tube bending machine from Unison that almost every school group tried out, and three-dimensional rapid prototyping machines of the kind that are currently revolutionising the design cycles of many types of product.

The Scarborough Engineering Week event was originally conceived by the directors of the world-leading tube bending machine manufacturer Unison Ltd, and they led the organisation of this year’s event.

They were aided by the regional education business partnership NYBEP who organised the student attendance from regional primary, secondary, sixth form and further education schools and colleges, the Local Education Partnership and North Yorkshire County Council.

The event was made possible by sponsorship from York Potash who want to develop a mine in the Scarborough area to produce potash fertilizer – a large scale enterprise that could create hundreds of high quality engineering jobs.

At the associated dinner for exhibitors and guests the keynote speaker, Colin Sirett, Head of Research & Technology at Airbus in the UK, highlighted the problems the UK faces as a result of a lack of engineering students. This theme was also the focus for the Royal Family’s representative, the Lord-Lieutenant for North Yorkshire Barry Dodd, who noted the direct interest and support that Prince Charles has shown for Scarborough Engineering Week.

These speakers were followed by Jack Rickard MBE of the Baker Dearing Educational Trust, who is playing a key role in the current project to establish a University Technical College (UTC) in Scarborough. He noted that the existence of the close-knit engineering community in Scarborough and Scarborough Engineering Week were important influences in the recent decision to start a UTC in the town.

Exhibitors included the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre of the University of Sheffield, Bloodhound SSC, Castle Employment, Castle Group, Dale Power Solutions, Defra, Denford, Derwent Training Association, EY, F1 in Schools, Fanuc UK, Firmac, Festo, Forum Energy Technologies, Hunprenco, Joy Global, Lloyd Dowson, McCain Foods, Moog, North Sea Winches, NYHMA, Osprey, Plaxton, S&D, Scarborough Borough Council, Severfield, Schneider Electric, Wilfred Scruton, UK Trade & Investment, Unison, University of Hull, Yorkshire Coast College, York Potash and 600 UK./Electrox.