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The Basildon Academies

Engineering a brighter future

How can a career in engineering help solve the problems facing our planet?

This was the key question posed to a group of Year 7 and Year 8 students by Paul Hollingsworth during the recent ‘Energy Quest’ workshop.  In the event, run by Tomorrow’s Engineers and Learn by Design, students were asked to think about ways in which future innovations in renewable energy could make a positive impact on the pressures facing our planet.

The students rose to the challenge and showed some amazingly imaginative ideas when asked to mind map future energy solutions; these included public transport with pedals under each seat, shoes that generate energy when the owner is walking in them, and solar powered speakers which scare dolphins away from fishermens’ nets.

In a second activity, working in collaborative teams to share their skills, the students were tasked with adapting and improving the efficiency of an electric car. After the initial design and build, students tested and recorded the cars performance over a distance of 4 metres, aiming to decrease energy output but still be powerful enough to cover the 4 metre distance. They used voltmeters and plotted each test on a graph to compare the effectiveness of each trial to establish the best energy input to power output ratio.

Education Communicator Paul was very positive about the way the workshop had gone and says it was “a pleasure to work with the students and they have all been fully engaged in the tasks set.” He goes on to explain the importance of getting students fired up about engineering and showing them that a lot of the environmental issues which are facing our planet right now, the kind of problems David Attenborough and others have so clearly bought to wider attention, can be tackled through imaginative engineering.  He’s keen to break down the stereotypes surrounding the field, saying he wants future scientists to see that “engineering is a broader church than they first thought. A lot of people think about cars roads and buildings and very solid elements of engineering whereas the reality of engineering these days is more about chemistry and software." 

It seems his goal met with success, because as Aimee-Jane in Year 8 said afterwards, “I loved the workshop because it helped me understand that engineers do more than just work with electrics. It was a fun and interesting experience.” Minal in Year 7 clearly also appreciated the environmental message and remarks, “The future energy quest challenge was fun. We came up with lots of ideas to help the planet.” 

Paul was extremely pleased with the way the group tackled the problem solving and how they used their imagination to think more creatively around some very real engineering issues. “If they enjoy all of the elements involved in the workshop today they are engineers in waiting”, he said, and it looks as though he may have inspired more than one student to think about a technical career.

“In the future I want to become a designer”, Georgina in Year 8 says, “so taking part in the workshop gave me a good idea to take part in engineering activities.” 

It looks like the future of the planet may already be in the safe hands of Tomorrow’s Engineers!

Click here for more photos of the workshop.