Cambridge LaunchPad inspires the next generation of engineers at the new A14

Year 5 students from Cherry Hinton C of E Primary School and the Cambridgeshire Home Educating Families came together for the first Cambridge LaunchPad event of 2018. Volunteers from the A14 Integrated Delivery Team and Highways England hosted a fun-packed day for our STEM outreach programme at their site near Bar Hill.

The students were challenged to a range of activities, from uncovering archaeological artefacts and identifying protected species of animals that may be found around the construction site, to planning and future-proofing a city and using aggregates to build roads. They were also treated to demonstrations of the technology and equipment used in various stages of the project, including VR goggles for 360° visualisation, drones for mapping the land from above and the different types of plant on-site.

Caroline Evans, a home-educating parent, said “We were excited to get involved with Cambridge LaunchPad to give the children an opportunity to meet a wide range of STEM professionals and take part in some hands-on STEM activities. The children really enjoyed learning about the animals to look for before starting a construction project, how to future-proof a city and digging for artefacts in the archaeology activity. They also loved seeing how varied careers in construction and engineering can be and how to apply the things they’ve learnt in a real job.“

The 6 students who most impressed the volunteers with their enthusiasm, teamwork and communications skills were selected to attend a prize trip that will take place in the summer, alongside Year 4–6 students from other schools that are taking part in Cambridge LaunchPad.

Rhian Lawton, Skills Co-ordinator at the A14 Integrated Delivery Team, said “We are proud to be supporting Cambridge Launchpad. It’s essential that we offer students hands-on activities and experiences to allow them to understand the sheer scale of a project like the A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon improvement scheme, and the huge variety of exciting craft, technical and professional roles available. We are pleased to welcome primary aged students to the project, it’s exciting to start careers work early, to allow them to come on-site and see for themselves what the industry has to offer with no misconceptions and preconceived ideas.”

Sally Haiselden, Deputy Head of Cherry Hinton C of E Primary School, said “The kids will never look at a road in the same way again! They’ve surveyed one, they’ve made one, they’ve crossed one, they’ve photographed one from the air and watching their faces, they’ve all been transfixed.“

This programme encourages young people to consider STEM subjects and careers, and aims to address the gender imbalance in further education and industry. By introducing students to business volunteers who are passionate about their careers and inspiring role models that break gender stereotypes, students can see that certain industries, like construction, can be accessible with a wide variety of job roles on offer.

Anna Aldred, STEM Outreach and Cambridge LaunchPad Project Manager from Form the Future CIC, said “From the feedback that the Cherry Hinton and Teversham students, teachers and teaching assistants gave me, it is safe to say that the day was an overwhelming success! Every single student was fully engaged in all activities at all times. The interactive and hands-on activities allowed each and every student to let their curiosity, delight and individuality shine through. These activity sessions yielded some truly novel contributions from students, which makes me confident that the members of this generation of young engineers are going to grow up to be inspirational innovators!”

If your school or business is interested in getting involved with Cambridge LaunchPad next academic year, please contact Anna at aaldred@formthefuture.org.uk.

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