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University hosts engineering challenge to inspire next generation

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Published on 30 May 2023

The winning team from St Anthony’s Girls School
The winning team from St Anthony’s Girls School

The University of Sunderland has welcomed pupils from across the region to try their hands at becoming engineers for the day.

Year 8 pupils from Washington Academy, Kepier Academy, Castle View Enterprise Academy, St Anthony’s Girls Catholic Academy and Southmoor Academy attended The Faraday Challenge Day at the University’s City campus last week (Friday 26 May). 

Hosted by the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET), the event gave pupils the chance to work together to research, design and build solutions to real engineering problems.  

In the morning, teams raced against the clock to solve a real-life engineering problem, putting their engineering and technology skills to the test. Then the afternoon saw them judged on their work by engineering academics from the University.  

Jessica Cassells, STEM Coordinator at Southmoor Academy, said: “This is our first year doing the Faraday Challenge Day. We signed up because we have some great creative thinkers in our school and we saw it as a great opportunity to challenge them outside of the classroom environment.”

It is also the first time Castle View Enterprise Academy has taken part in the challenge. Teacher, Kieran Boyle said: “The Faraday Challenge Day gives our pupils the opportunity to experience what university is like and gives them the chance to consider university as part of their future.”

The Faraday Challenge is run annually by IET as part of their commitment to show young people the benefits of careers within Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM).  

Natalie Moat, IET Faraday Education Manager, said: “There is a huge demand for new engineers and technicians. We are confident that this will challenge young people’s perceptions of engineering and inspire the next generation by giving them an insight into the life of a real engineer and showing them just how exciting and creative engineering really is.” 
The Faraday Challenge Days are a great way for pupils to build their extra-curricular skills too. By taking part, pupils receive an Industrial Cadets Challenger Award for completing a hands-on problem solving and critical thinking activity. Plus, those who take part can receive a CREST Discovery Award from the British Science Association. This recognises a quality STEM project which showcases fun, teamwork and transferable skills, while putting projects into a real-world context.  

Dave Knapton, Principal Lecturer and Engineering Academic Team Leader at the University’s Faculty of Technology, said: “The Faraday Challenge days are a fantastic opportunity to showcase the range of possibilities in STEM to local pupils. It’s a pleasure to host it here at the University of Sunderland, showcasing our excellent engineering and technology facilities and encouraging our local pupils to become the engineers of the future.”

The winning team from St Anthony’s Girls School were awarded a prize and a trophy for their school to highlight their impressive engineering skills.  

Kristina, from St Anthony's, said: “When we found out we won we were shocked as all the other teams were great too and there was such strong competition.”

Rosie said that it was a new experience for them all, learning new skills in a different environment to the classroom and teammate Grace added: “We’ve had a great day. We hadn’t really worked as a team before but this challenge day brought us all together – we’ve all really enjoyed it and are so proud we’ve won.”

When asked if they would consider a career in STEM in the future, several of the girls said yes. 

This is just one example of the University of Sunderland’s excellent outreach work with schools locally, regionally and nationally to widen participation. The University believes everyone should have the choice to attend university. By offering these events in partnership with institutions such as the IET, the University can offer pupils the chance to experience university environments and start considering whether it could be an option for their future.