Time to reach for the stars

Key skills: Biology Co-ordinator at St Mary's Kate Seddon and Cuadrilla CEO 'Francis Egan watch pupils experimenting with iron wool
Key skills: Biology Co-ordinator at St Mary's Kate Seddon and Cuadrilla CEO 'Francis Egan watch pupils experimenting with iron wool

We have lift off!

The Gazette’s Young Engineers Challenge 2015 has been launched, giving every secondary school on the Fylde coast a chance to win £10,000 to fund science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) work in school.

The STEM Skills Challenge gives teenagers a chance to show off their prowess in the subjects, competing with other schools to win the top prize by completing a tough task.

The competition is sponsored by Cuadrilla and Centrica, and hosted by Blackpool and The Fylde College, to inspire and enthuse youngsters in the key areas.

Last year’s winners St Mary’s Catholic Academy in Blackpool have used their £10,000 winnings to fund once-in-a-lifetime trips to see inspirational scientists.

And a group of 20 children are this month travelling to London to visit the Science Museum and attend Science Discovered, an event led by Professor Brian Cox, the leading physicist and TV personality.

Biology co-ordinator Kate Seddon, who runs the school’s STEM club, said: “We were keen to spend the money on giving children opportunities they might not otherwise have, to take them to places which will inspire them.”

The school has also run trips to the National STEM Centre in York as well as to places like The Jodrell Bank Observatory in Macclesfield.

Ms Seddon added: “These trips have given us ideas of experiments and projects to look at in STEM club.

“We didn’t want to buy equipment that would go out of date, but rather give them experiences that would inspire them to try out and learn new things.”

Last year’s challenge saw children design and build a wind powered buggy using just basic materials.

Student Tierney O’Rourke, 15, who was part of the academy’s winning team in the last challenge, said: “It’s a proud achievement to have helped win £10,000, it’s like we’ve helped the school a lot.

“STEM club is even more exciting now because of our equipment and the trips we’re going on.”

This year’s challenge features a new element, with £2,000 up for grabs for the STEM club of the year.

Francis Egan, chief executive of Cuadrilla, said: “The Young Engineers challenge and STEM clubs in school just enthuse children in these subjects.

“I hope something as different and exciting as going to see Brian Cox will inspire them.”

Gazette editor Jon Rhodes: “It’s great to be able to inspire children in such important subjects.”

Ms Seddon said she would encourage every school, whether they have established STEM groups or not, to enter this year’s challenge.

She added: “Winning the competition has made our children really believe in themselves, realise they can achieve these things and apply their knowledge.”

Schools will be contacted over the coming weeks with full details of this year’s challenge, but in the meantime, you can register your school’s participation by contacting The Gazette Promotions Department on (01253) 361709.