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The Basildon Academies

STEM Challenge tests Desert Island Survival Skills

Year 10 students put their engineering skills to the test.

Picture this scenario: You are marooned on a desert island, and your challenge is to stay alive until help arrives. Building a wind turbine and water pump system would help you survive, but you can only use the natural resources found on the island.

That was the challenge facing a group of our Year 10 budding engineers when Education Officers Jessica and Rachel from The Smallpeice Trust visited the Upper Academy and threw down the gauntlet!

Students formed groups and were asked to ‘Think like an engineer’ to design the project, employing all their existing STEM knowledge plus new skills learned along the way. After a crash course on the principles of how turbines and water pumps work, plus advice on what to consider, the students began the challenge but were given no direct instructions on how to achieve it, though Jessica and Rachel were on hand for guidance throughout.

Using the key principles, students then embarked on a design which would use water-turbines to generate electricity, as well as a connecting water pump system. The teams’ designs were tested to establish which turbines generated the most energy, and whose water containers could hold and distribute water without leaking.  The key to success was in the detail of the build, such as getting the best angle on the turbine blades to ensure a good spinning speed.  

Then in a second scenario, ‘Pitch and Market’, the teams found themselves miraculously rescued from their desert island and, having returned to civilisation, realised that the designs they made could be developed into products. Working in groups again, the students developed a marketing pitch for their products and presented them to the rest of the group. Interesting and original ideas included the world’s smallest turbine and a product that could be set up across the entire African continent!  This challenge was particularly enjoyed by Louie.T who found that “the activities we did really built on my communication and leadership skills. My favourite part was when we had to present our work to everyone.”  

All students who participated received a British Science Association CREST Award certificate, but above all it was the experience that the students said they found most valuable.  “This day boosted my time management, creativity and leadership skills”, said Maria.M. “The STEM challenges pushed my skills to a further level,” Dhruvika.P agreed.

“I have always been interested in Engineering and this event has further increased my passion.” Amaan.M

“It has shown me a new possible career that I may wish to pursue in the future.” Alfie.G-M

“I loved the experience. It taught me many traits of engineering I had not yet discovered. This has inspired me to pursue a career in Engineering.” Gabriel.N

“I personally found the day really enjoyable and interesting. Not only did it test my ability to create products with random objects it also made me step out of my comfort zone which made me really happy.” Fenita.R

“I learned a lot of new skills including the experience of making a circuit board and how to market products. The day really opened my eyes to possible engineering career options.” Olajumoke.G

Click here for more photos of the day.

For more information about The Small Peice Trust visit