From education to employment

STEM goes off with a Big Bang at Borders College

Over 300 S2 pupils from across the Scottish Borders recently attended The Big Bang Event at Borders College which took place over 2 days, participating in various STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) activities and finding out about related career opportunities.

One of a number of Big Bang events put on across Scotland in June for secondary pupils, the two days offered ‘marketplace’ sessions covering a wide range of STEM sectors, including construction and engineering, health care, food and drink technology, digital, science and maths. Popular interactive activities were Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality, drones, and programmable ‘Dash’ robots.  One pupil said the VR headsets were his favourite activity, enthusing about his ‘score of the day’ on the virtual welder.

Among the inspiring and engaging 90 minute workshops on offer were Bloodhound rocket car racing, programmable Lego Mindstorm robots, RAF Operation X, Microsoft Ltd, and MTa STEM kits.  Wendy Findlay of Energy Skills Partnership (ESP), took the groups through the MTa STEM kit, which was recently trialled by Borders STEM teachers at the College’s Construction Hub in Tweedbank.

The inaugural event was organised by Borders College in partnership with Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) Borders and ESP, all of whom were delighted by the uptake.

Joanne George, Employer Engagement and Work Placement Co-ordinator at Borders College, said:
“This was the first opportunity many of the pupils have had to really engage with STEM and find out what it’s all about.  It was brilliant to see them all enjoying the activities and coming away with an enthusiasm for these subject areas.”
Earlston High School Science Teacher, Jennifer Walker, agreed with this:
“The pupils don’t always identify where STEM can go.  Because the group are still quite young, it’s good for them to see the activities first-hand and visualise the potential careers.”

The College’s Engineering department also offered a fun pit-stop challenge using the Greenpower electric race car (styled like the bat mobile!) allowing pupils to try their hand at a timed wheel change, a challenge they also took to the Big Bang Scotland event in Perth earlier in the month.  One pupil was delighted to be the fastest to complete the wheel change in her group.

Other exhibitors hosting activities and demonstrations included the University of Strathclyde, Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), Skills Development Scotland, and Scottish Borders Youth Voice, who were raising awareness of the Year of Young People.  Local employer Farne Salmon showcased activities including engineering problem solving and a crossbow shooting challenge, as well as giving pupils an insight to the potential employment opportunities available to them in the future.  Pupils could even be seen walking around with dry peas in their shoes as part of the healthcare session, designed to demonstrate what it would feel like to live with arthritis.

Transport was provided by Scottish Borders Council (SBC) and a number of local Councillors attended to show their support.  Andy Anderson, Councillor for Galashiels and District, who gained a Higher National Certificate in Biology from Napier College in Edinburgh some 40 years ago before working for a time as a lab technician, commented that although he worked with the most up to date equipment at that time, STEM resources and technology have evolved considerably since he completed his studies.

Borders College and its partners hope that the opportunity to explore these activities and hear from the professionals about their experiences and career progression will help to inspire pupils to continue studying maths and science subjects at school, potentially becoming young engineers and scientists of the future.

Catherine Thomson, Quality Improvement Officer at SBC, said:
“It was lovely to join our young people in learning new skills and enjoying the STEM activities on offer throughout the day. They were enthusiastic, engaged well and were a credit to their schools.
“Well done to all involved and to our DYW partners without whom these kind of events wouldn’t happen.”

Sara Ward, DYW Programme Manager, added:
“This was the first time the event has taken place in the Borders and the commitment from local business has been fantastic, this is a great opportunity to showcase the careers available in STEM.  We intend to make this an annual event and aim to inspire STEM subjects to be continued in learning.”

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