D&T Association Member school, Rushcliffe School students win unique solar energy worskhop

Published 23rd March 2018

A group of 30 students from Years 7-9 at Rushcliffe School in West Bridgford has received one of four exciting hands-on engineering workshops offered by Shell, in a prize draw for early bird entrants to its national schools’ competition, The Bright Ideas Challenge.

The Bright Ideas Challenge invites young people aged 11-14 to use their STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths) skills to come up with creative ideas for powering future cities to be vibrant, healthy and clean places to live. The deadline for entries closes in April, but Rushcliffe School threw their name in the prize draw hat by getting their entries in early.

Each year the competition attracts hundreds of entries from across the UK and this year for the first time, Shell has offered four schools – chosen in a prize draw – to win a hands-on engineering experience at their school as a result of entering the competition early.

The students from Rushcliffe School took part in the 90-minute challenge that saw them tasked with building a floating solar farm, robust enough to hold multiple solar panels. The challenge was rooted in the need to find ways of providing 50% more energy by 2050 to support a global population of over nine billion.

The teams had to work against the clock with materials like lollipop sticks, pipe cleaners, balloons, paper and sellotape at their disposal, relying on their teamwork, problem solving skills, creativity and engineering know-how to work out innovative ways to support the panels. As the workshop was designed to emulate real-world engineering challenges, they also had to work with a restricted budget and limited supply of each type of material. So, waterproofing, durability and aesthetic value were all key considerations in their selection process.

The winning teams managed to create structures to support an impressive 21 panels.

Alice, a student in Year 8 from Rushcliffe School, said: ‘I learned a lot about the strongest structures and shapes and I was given an idea of what big cities will look like in years to come. The session gave me a lot more knowledge of engineering. I had a lot of fun at the same time!’

Marcus-Alexander Neil, Shell’s STEM Education Manager, commented: ‘It’s so important that we open young people’s eyes to the positive role they can play in shaping a brighter future, using the STEM skills they’re learning in the classroom.

The UK is currently producing a shortfall of thousands of engineering graduates each year. Through school activities like The Bright Ideas Challenge we want to demonstrate to young people that engineering is an exciting and inspiring career to pursue and one in which you can make a real difference to people’s quality of life.’

The deadline for schools to enter The Bright Ideas Challenge is Friday 27th April, 2018, so there’s still time for more schools to enter. The competition will see 14 schools each win £1,500 to boost STEM and a VIP London experience at Make the Future Life, Shell’s festival of ideas and innovation, where a national winner will be voted by the public, bringing their grand prize total to £5,000. Details of how to enter The Bright Ideas Challenge can be found at www.shell.co.uk/brightideaschallenge, where teachers can also find a wealth of free interactive STEM resources.

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