Students from Surrey complete six-month STEM challenge developing solutions to real-life engineering projects
The 9th annual STEM Festival, held at BP’s International Centre for Business and Technology (ICBT) in West London, is a day-long event celebrating the achievements of young people in engineering. Small teams of students have been working with a business mentor to produce a creative and sustainable solution to a variety of challenges faced by industry.
The STEM Festival is the culmination of that project and gives the teams an opportunity to present their findings to parents, teachers and a panel of judges.
The younger students, aged 13-14, worked on a 10-week Go4SET project entitled ‘Challenging Environments’. The students explored how science and technology could be used to help people live and work in some of the harshest environments on Earth.
Working in small teams they developed a project plan, wrote a report and built a physical model that demonstrated their approach and solution. Each team was allocated a business mentor, from BP or another local business, with an engineering or science background. The role of the mentor was to provide guidance, to challenge their thinking and to provide real-world context to help the teams complete their project.
The older students tackled a six-month engineering project based on a real world challenge that the mentor’s company is currently facing. The teams attended a launch event in November to meet their mentors and to receive their brief. Typically the mentors visit the students fortnightly at their schools and together they attend a residential workshop at the engineering department of the University of Surrey to build and test their solutions.
“With the UK facing a shortage in young students in studying STEM subjects, these projects are a great way to help bring STEM alive and help inspire the next generation of engineers and scientists.”Masudur Rahman, BP community affairs manager
One team, mentored by Charlie Rickett, BP Project Engineer, was set the task of developing a device to detect leaks from underwater pipelines and wells. A solution to this could, in theory, help BP use existing ageing oil and gas infrastructure in the North Sea to transport and store captured carbon dioxide thereby assisting the move to a low carbon future. The ability to safely use existing infrastructure can greatly help reduce the cost of carbon capture and storage while reusing assets that would otherwise be decommissioned. Other challenges set for the teams included testing underwater drones to detect pipeline and well leaks, retrofitting systems, and developing solutions to prevent hot tapping in oil pipelines. All the students are encouraged to show industrial enterprise, creativity and innovation when developing their solution. As they work together they gain extensive experience of problem-solving, team-working and project management. In the past some students have been so successful that the developed solutions were actually implemented by the company.
Mentoring EES projects is a great way to work with enthusiastic and motivated students on real-life engineering challenges that I am passionate about. I find the creative and innovative solutions they come up with very refreshing and inspiring. I also enjoy the chance to help the students develop transferable skills in team work and project management while encouraging their curiosity and interest in STEM subjects.Amrita Lulla, BP Process and process safety engineer
“Britain has a great history of scientific and engineering excellence, but maintaining that in the present and indeed the future is a massive challenge. We face a skills shortage in the UK, with thousands of job positions in STEM related industries going unfilled,” says Matt Fox, Engineering Development Trust Co-ordinator. “The Engineering Development Trust charity in partnership with BP is taking a proactive approach to educate and inspire the younger generation, and using the mentor system to demystify and demonstrate how rewarding and enjoyable a career in STEM can be.”
The event finished with a speech from keynote speaker, Ian Cavanagh, Head of Modernisation & Transformation, Upstream, followed by an awards ceremony, where 4 teams received outstanding achievement awards for their projects. The judges looked for innovative solutions, that also showed an excellent grasp of the STEM issues raised in the project and the final awards were judged on presentation, teamwork, creativity and sustainability.
Upon completion of each project the students are also awarded two separate nationally recognised awards, the CREST award and the Industrial Cadet Award, both of which are recognised on CVs of new recruits by employers.
The following teams were given special awards for their achievements on completing their projects:
- Engineering Education Scheme - Contribution to the business award – Tiffin Boys working with BP (mentors Amrita Lulla and Charlie Rickett)
- Go4SET - Best Project Report – Tiffin Boys (mentor Helen Mason)
- Go4SET - Best Overall Project – Tiffin Girls (mentors Akinsola Akere and Lillia Nelson)
- Pupils Choice Award – Royal Grammar School Go4SET team (mentor Juliette Buis-Wegerif)