Rhodes Avenue volunteer

Engineering the future of young people

19 September 2017

Rhodes Avenue Primary School is part of the London Enterprise Adviser Network, a fully funded programme that helps prepare young people for the world of work by connecting businesses with London schools.

From the outset, Shane Claridge, Deputy Head Teacher at the school, identified STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) as one of the areas that was key for their students. He wanted to ensure that they all knew that anyone, regardless of their race or gender, could become a scientist. As a result, the school was matched with an Enterprise Adviser with a STEM background – Christina Nicolaou, a STEM ambassador and an engineer for Careys, a construction firm based in London.

Shane recognised the importance of professionals speaking to younger people as a way to inspire them, and so Christina was soon able to support the school and the STEM strand of their careers plan by doing just this. Through her network, she invited a group of civil engineers to the school to talk about careers in STEM.

The seven civil engineers gave a presentation on what civil engineering is, and the different roles that exist within their field. The students were also given the opportunity to quiz their guests about the day-to-day activities of an engineer.

The presentation was then followed by a fantastic workshop where the year 5 students split into groups of three to experience first-hand what it felt like being a civil engineer. Using popsicles and glue the students had an hour to build their own bridges, using images drawn by the engineers. Then everyone reconvened in the assembly hall, where a selection of the bridges were shared and discussed from an engineering perspective. 

Through the STEM workshop students had the chance to really develop their communication skills, team work and problem-solving skills while also learning about the many opportunities available to them.

Shane summed up the day:

Great fun was had by all and I am not sure who enjoyed the experience the most, the engineers or our pupils.  In any event it was a wonderful learning opportunity for our Year 5 children, they gained a marvellous insight into the world of work, dispelling stereotypical gender assumptions of engineers and additionally they obtained an increased scientific understanding of forces, structures and design principles through enjoyable practical activities.

The school plans to hold more STEM events in the future and build this in to their annual calendar to ensure every student at Rhodes Avenue Primary School knows that they have the potential to become a scientist.