There was a real buzz in the air this week, as I entered the assembly hall to find it packed with excited year 8 and 9 students. Upon further investigation, I realised that the cause of the excitement was a whole day of STEM activities, running as part of the First Edition Programme and sponsored by RAF 100. The First Edition programmes are run through the charity EDT, which provides hands-on science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) activity days for young people across the UK.
Students worked in teams throughout the day on a variety of challenges; they had to construct a radar tower, using only paper and tape, but capable of supporting weights at two different heights. The aim was to investigate the strength of different shapes in structures and the most efficient use of materials. “I’ve really enjoyed working as part of a team,” year 8 student Izzy told me. “I didn’t really know that I liked engineering, but I’ve been having a great time!”
The next activity involved programming a small robot to enter a disaster zone, the scenario being the recent earthquakes in the Nepal region of the Himalayas. Students had to work out the coding required in order to steer the robot accurately through the disaster zone. “It’s been really interesting and fun.” Year 8 student Shannon said. “We’ve all worked on the coding – it’s really important to get that right, or the robot won’t go where you want it to.”
The final task of the day was for teams to build and test their own aircraft models which had to achieve a specified distance along a ‘runway’ using only elastic power. Teams had to investigate the impact of mass, friction and aerodynamics on the movement of their models.
“There was a lot of physics involved in completing this task”, Year 9 student Shae explained, “And we’ve all been working together to work out how to make our model travel the right distance.”
Shae also shared his thoughts on the First Edition event, “I’ve been doing a maths workshop at weekends, but this is much more fun. I’m really interested in engineering and science; this is very practical and hands on, so I can actually see if what we are doing works in practice.”
Students were challenged to investigate real world applications of science, technology, engineering and maths; this encouraged creativity, innovation, problem-solving and team work; and the overall verdict of the students, “We’ve had a fantastic day!”
Huge thanks go to EDT, RAF 100 and Ms Holland for organising such a wonderful day for Longhill High students.