The University of Wolverhampton hosted a visit of Shropshire business mentors and teachers from local schools at its Telford Innovation Centre recently.
The visitors attended a masterclass in product design as part of the Midlands News Association (MNA) STEM Challenge 2018. They were given a tutorial by a manufacturing expert as well as a tour of the facilities.
The visit was organised for teachers and mentors who are supporting school pupils competing in the challenge, recently launched by the MNA, publisher of the Shropshire Star and Express & Star, to promote the importance of the key Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths subjects.
The STEM Challenge is to design and manufacture a product to improve or enhance the quality of life for a group or person that they consider to be disadvantaged.
Around two dozen schools from the Shropshire, Staffordshire and the Black Country are taking part in the challenge. The teams of six pupils will need to demonstrate their product or prototype as a working model at a presentation event at the main sponsor, Dudley College of Technology, on July 5.
The event at the University of Wolverhampton, who has sponsored the Best Presentation category, was organised for Shropshire teachers and their partner mentors and saw them given an insight into product design by Dr Muhammad Khan, a Senior Lecturer in Engineering Management at the University.
He talked the group of 16, which included lead STEM ambassadors Malcolm Eyre and Liz Smith, through a process called Lean Product Design, which showed them how to plan their design and to evaluate how it would work and whether it would fulfil the brief.
Dr Khan then set them the challenge of designing a garden swing which saw them create a prototype using paper cups, elastic bands and wooden sticks.
The group was then given a tour of the engineering facilities such as the metal printing machines and metrology laboratory by David Witton, Marketing Manager for the Faculty of Science and Engineering.
He said: “We want as many young people as possible to take an interest in STEM subjects and that’s why we are involved in the MNA STEM Challenge. I think it’s making engineering, science and mathematics fun and giving them a sense of teamwork. It’s also good because they will be able to see how they can help others with these skills.”
Among those taking part in the event was science teacher Staci Rutherford, who works at Telford Langley School.
She said: “The challenge is giving the children an insight into engineering and building and they are getting hands-on experience as well as the chance to use their imaginations. They are very enthusiastic about it.”
Mentor for her team of Year 9 pupils is Lee Drummond, Director of Teaching and Learning at Telford based Cadcoe.
He said: “It’s going really well so far. They’ve come up with some strong ideas and it’s good because they’ve all got their different strengths.”
Brendan Oakley, who works at AM Griffiths & Son in Wolverhampton, is a mentor for Telford Priory School’s team, which is also being supported by science teacher Sarah Clayton.
He said the event had been useful for giving them ideas about how they can support the pupils during the challenge.
“It’s been really valuable and there area ideas we can take back to them. They are enjoying the challenge and are excited about what they are going to do,” added Mr Oakley.
The Telford Park School science teacher Hannah Newey who works at The Telford Park School, said she too had found the event helpful added: “It’s been good to speak to the other teams and to know that we are on the right track with what we want to do,” she added.
Team mentor and engineer Joe Dawes, who works at Veolia, added: “The team has been very busy. They are doing it all in their own time and they’ve set up their own WhatsApp group so they can chat to each other about it and discuss ideas. It’s all coming together well.”
The mentors will make regular visits between now and July to the schools to work with the teams, monitor progress and provide support where needed.
Their work will be overseen by Lead STEM Ambassadors Malcolm Eyre and Liz Smith.
The teams will be judged according to four criteria – Best Work Plan, sponsored by Entrust; Best Team Work, sponsored by KUKA; Best Operating Model, sponsored by DENSO; and Best Presentation, sponsored by the University of Wolverhampton.
For more information please contact the Media Relations Office on 01902 32 2736 or 01902 518647.
Date Issued: 14th February 2018