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Girls in STEM – Eckington Students’ Engineer ‘Disaster Day’ Solutions

The Royal Air Force and STEAM Works delivered a ‘Disaster Day’ workshop to two-hundred girls from five local schools last term. The event, which was themed around a natural disaster, was held at Eckington School as part of a Flexible Learning Day. Girls from Eckington School’s Year 7 and local primary schools (Marsh Lane Primary School, Eckington Camms Endowed CofE Primary School, Ridgeway Primary School and Killamarsh Junior School) were involved in the project.

Students were tasked with engineering a solution to problems that occur following a natural disaster.  The girls used their STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) skills to help solve problems around power supply and logistics.  The aim of the Disaster Day event was to encourage more young women to consider a STEM career.

Dr Alison Buxton, Director of STEAM Works Learning, led the event. Dr Alison opened with a presentation on how short-term emergency relief can aid a disaster, before introducing students to the practical activities of making eco-friendly wind turbines and tackling a fragile load cargo logistics challenge. She explains that “with a major skills shortage in engineering and other STEM careers, it is really important that young people understand what engineering is and the opportunities it can bring. We run days like this for girls to help them realise they have a range of skills including creativity, problem-solving and helping others – all key areas in engineering”.

The day saw the girls split into groups, each group focussing on both ‘Power generation’ and ‘Medical supplies’. The Power generation activity saw students design and build a wind turbine out of rubbish to generate power. The safe delivery of emergency medical supplies activity included building a structure out of K’NEX to safely house and transport the medical supplies from the helicopter to ground level. The medical supplies delivery structure must also survive a zip wire.

The event was supported by RAF staff, STEM ambassadors, female student leaders and female staff. All the girls had an amazing day, having gained a new experience outside of the classroom; every student came away happy.

Commenting on the success of the event, Eckington School’s Principal, Alison Burgess said: “The event was perfect for our Flexible Learning Day. STEAM Works and the RAF led a fun and inspiring workshop; which has left many of our students ambitious about a career in Engineering.”

In 2018, the RAF celebrated their centenary, while the Women’s Engineering Society celebrate ‘100 years of women in engineering’ this year.  The ‘Disaster Day’ hoped to support both of these events and encourage the next generation of young women into Engineering.

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