Young scientists have the drive for success

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Scientists and engineers were blown away by the ingenuity of schoolchildren taking part in the Young Engineers STEM Skills Challenge.

Teenagers from schools across the Fylde coast were tasked with designing and building a wind powered buggy, using just basic materials, for the science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) competition.

First heat of the STEM skills challenge at Blackpool and the Fylde college.'Katie Robson, Ryan Hadley, Ciera Rogan and Joe Baron from St Bedes.

First heat of the STEM skills challenge at Blackpool and the Fylde college.'Katie Robson, Ryan Hadley, Ciera Rogan and Joe Baron from St Bedes.

Teams from 20 schools then raced their vehicles to see which would travel furthest combining precise engineering with energy from an electric fan.

The Gazette challenge, sponsored by Centrica Energy and Cuadrilla Resources, and hosted by Blackpool and The Fylde College, gives schools chance to compete to win the first place prize of £10,000 to spend on STEM equipment.

The first heat on Monday, at Blackpool and The Fylde College’s Bispham campus, saw children set the blind challenge and given four hours to build their buggies before racing them across a 20m course.

Martin York, national shale gas manager for Centrica Energy, said: “We saw a lot of innovation and you could see the teenagers working together and learning from each other.

“We’ve a huge skills shortage in the industry so to get young people thinking about practical solutions to problems is key and if that fires up their enthusiasm to think about a career in engineering then more’s the better.”

Organisers hope to spark the imaginations of youngsters and use their theoretical knowledge of the STEM subjects in a fun and practical way.

Fifteen-year-old Helen
Eckton, from Carr Hill High School, Kirkham, said it was great to apply learning.

She said: “The challenge was quite difficult. It’s a good feeling to know what we’ve learned in class is useful.”

Antonio Marmo, 13, from Hodgson Academy, Poulton, added: “Having that challenge and trying to apply previous lessons while being left to our own devices to get it right, it was good.”

Tierney O’Rourke, 14, from St Mary’s Catholic College, Blackpool, said: “It was quite good to pull our ideas together to improve and find the best approach.”

Racing the vehicles brought out the competitive side of many of the youngsters.

Aaron O’Neill, 14, from Kirkham Grammar School, said: “It was a good challenge and really fun, there was some good competition, we’re all trying to be the best.”

Making it through to the final are: Rossall School, Baines High, St Mary’s Catholic College, Kirkham Grammar, Hodgson Academy, Carr Hill High, AKS, St Bede’s Catholic High, Montgomery Academy and Unity Academy.