Students try their hand at engineering

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Highfields School’s teenage students tried their hand at engineering skills thanks to a visit from Alison Buxton of the Discovery Project.

Funded by the engineering firm Alcoa, which owns local aerospace technology company Firth Rixson, the project is coordinated through Sheffield Hallam University and aims to encourage youngsters – particularly girls – to choose a career involving science, technology, engineering or maths.

Based on a realistic natural disaster scenario, the sessions were very practical, requiring the girls to solve problems caused by flooding.

Unlocking engineering skills they never knew they had, the girls built bridges, constructed shelters using 3D maths shapes, and generated power using wind turbines.

Three female engineers from Alcoa, as well as a representative from their human resources department, acted as ambassadors by drawing on their own experiences and explaining the wide possibilities of a career in engineering.

Alison Buxton, responsible for the project, said, “I am very impressed with what I have seen today. The girls were really engaged and worked very hard, and I think they will make fantastic engineers.

“The fact that Highfields offers a GCSE in engineering is amazing. Introducing this possibility at a younger age is just what is needed to encourage our youngsters into engineering.

“The UK has been working hard to address the gender gap in engineering and I believe it is important for girls to experience projects like this to help broaden their horizons and help with future career decisions.” 

Nicola Gresswell, head of year ten at Highfields School, said: “The engineering GCSE we offer at Highfields is proving to be a popular course. We are proud that so many girls have shown such interest and aptitude today and are very grateful for the support of local employer Alcoa and the Discovery Project for helping us to harness our youngster’s engineering skills.”