The 8th 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. Teams of students work together to tackle real-life engineering projects and produce creative, sustainable solutions to challenges faced in industry. The STEM Festival gives the teams the opportunity to present their findings to parents, teachers and a panel of judges provided by BP and other local companies. The judges look for innovative solutions that show an excellent grasp of the STEM issues raised in the project and awards are based on presentation, teamwork, creativity and sustainability.
The groups took part in one of two programmes run by the Engineering Development Trust and funded by BP - Go4Set and the Engineering Education Scheme.
The younger students worked on a 10-week project entitled ‘Challenging Environments’ which encouraged them to understand how science and technology can help people live and work in some of the harshest environments on Earth. They worked in small teams to address the problem, created a project plan and presented a report and a physical model which demonstrated their approach and solution. To help the teams tackle their project each team was allocated a business mentor with an engineering or science background. The role of the mentor was to provide guidance, challenge and real-world context to help the teams to complete the project.
The older students tackled a six-month engineering project. The theme for the project was set by the mentor for each team and was based on a real world challenge that the mentor’s company is currently facing. Examples included coming up with alternative ways to build structures on the seabed, to creating a renewably powered oil tanker. During the project phase, students were encouraged to show industrial enterprise, creativity and innovation while gaining extensive experience of problem-solving, team-working and project management. They also got access to university facilities to build and test their solutions. Often the students have developed solutions that companies have then gone on to implement.
BP supports programmes such as this as it provides an opportunity for employee mentor to work closely with young people to show them how their school work can apply to their futures careers, to explore the career opportunities that are available to young people and to inspire them to be the future generation of engineers. Business mentors in turn learn valuable personal and professional skills that they can take back to the work place to enable them to be more effective.
The UK is facing a shortage of young people studying STEM subjects and progressing into science and engineering based jobs. Research has shown that the exposure of younger age groups to STEM related employers encourages more students to choose post-16 courses in these subject areas, eventually leading to the study of STEM degrees at university.
The event finished with a speech from keynote speaker, Leigh-Ann Russell, vice president of performance for BP’s Global Wells Organization, and a founding member of BP’s Million Women Mentors Leadership Council, followed by an awards ceremony, where 3 teams received outstanding achievement awards for their projects. Upon completion of each project the students are awarded two separate nationally recognised awards, the CREST award and the Industrial Cadet Award, both of which are highly prized by employers on the CVs of new recruits.
The following teams were given special awards for their achievements on completing their projects: