National Grid and VEX Robotics Launch Project to Encourage ‘Girls into STEM’

Published 3rd December 2015

National Grid, lead UK sponsor of the VEX Robotics Competition since 2013, are offering primary and secondary schools across the UK the opportunity to get involved in the 2015 – 2016 VEX competitions, Nothing But Net and Bank Shot, with competition grants totalling over £30,000! Aiming to encourage girls into STEM subjects and careers, these grants will all be allocated to ‘all-girl’ teams who will then compete across the UK at regional events with the aim of getting to the VEX Robotics Competition UK National Finals at The Big Bang: UK Young Scientists & Engineers Fair 2016.

The VEX Robotics platform is a world leader in classroom based robotics. Offering students as young as 8 the opportunity to design, build, control and program robots. Mapped to the National Curriculum across Design & Technology and Computing VEX IQ and VEX EDR are used in schools both across the UK and around the world. VEX is also the platform for the largest and fastest growing Middle and High School robotics competition in the World. Allowing students to develop the transferable employment skills that industry require – time management, communication, teamwork – these are just some of those skills.

Addressing this skills gap is one of the primary focuses for National Grid and one of the reasons for the continued sponsorship of the VEX Robotics Competition. “With this initiative we want to increase the number of young females who get involved with Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects and then, consequently, consider this as a field for a career.” Says Jonathan Richardson, Education and Skills Specialist at National Grid. “The beauty of VEX, and why I see so much value in it, is that it takes STEM subjects out of the classroom and pits them to the test in real-life situations.”

Encouraging female students to consider careers in Engineering related fields is a subject equally important for VEX Robotics. Paul McKnight, from the company explains, “There is a huge misconception about what an 'Engineering' career really is – particularly among parents. We need to move perceptions away from the dirty, boiler-suited, male-dominated stereotype and to the reality that a career in Engineering is not fixing engines, but can be about addressing some of the biggest challenges faced by society - renewable energy, providing clean water access, advancing healthcare provision, space exploration - this is the career that is accessible and students, particular female, should be encouraged down this path."

Why is it Important?

There is a well-documented shortage of engineers in the UK. The Royal Academy of Engineering and EngineeringUK, amongst others, have conducted research that have clearly documented this. The UK needs 100,000 new graduates in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects every year until 2020 just to maintain the current employment numbers. What is even more staggering is the percentage of females who make up the current engineering workforce in the UK - only 6%

Recent research by the Institute of Engineering & Technology as part of its Engineering a Better World campaign has revealed that a staggering 93% of parents would not support their daughter to pursue a career in engineering. However when asked what subjects they enjoy at school, 39% of girls said they enjoy Information Technology, Computing and Design & Technology. This research shows there is a clear interest in STEM areas that doesn't translate to the number of females entering the engineering industry.

What is in a Grant?

Everything you need to get started for whichever competition you enter. Team Registration, Full software licence for ROBOTC, a competition ‘Super’ kit and accessories. For VEX IQ this is to the value of £500, for VEX EDR over £1000!

How Can I Receive A Grant?

Teams need to be made up of a minimum of five female students who will form a team to compete in either the VEX IQ Challenge or the VEX Robotics Competition. Teachers will receive a full training session and must commit to attending one competition this year.

To be in consideration for a grant kit, teams need to submit an answer to the question – What is engineering? This is to be submitted by the students and can take whichever form they wish – written, presentation, video, animation – through the webpage –

Teachers also need to submit a written answer to the question – How will you ensure the legacy of the kit in the school? This is through the same web page.

Full details of the terms and conditions are included on the website.

For further information contact Paul McKnight at VEX Robotics on 01925 251038 or email

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