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Engineers of the future take part in shelter building challenge

Pupils from six local schools have visited City University London to attend an Engineering Spotlight day

by Nicola Ranson

Primary school pupils from Islington and nearby boroughs Bromley and Camden visited City University London to get a taster for engineering. More than 50 local children attended an Engineering Spotlight day, where they learnt more about the subject and took part in a challenge to build shelters out of just newspaper and cable ties. The hands-on workshop saw teams of up to six children competing to build life-sized structures, big enough for their whole team to fit into. The aim of the day was to inspire young people, giving them a glimpse into some of the skills required for a career in engineering and to encourage them to consider university in the future.
School children in Great Hall
City Spotlight Days, now in their second year of running, are targeted at primary school pupils from underrepresented backgrounds in Higher Education. They provide an insight into university and subjects ranging from Computer Science to Music to Speech and Language Therapy. Spotlight days aim to raise aspirations by giving the pupils a glimpse into what university life is like, showcasing it as a possibility for the future. Led by a Civil Engineer, the Engineering Spotlight day highlights the importance of sticking with subjects such as Maths and Physics and helps build a picture of what engineers actually do and who they are.

Research has shown that for outreach to be the most effective, it’s best to start from an early age. The aim of the Spotlight day was to inspire the next generation of engineers.
Jenny Tait, Widening Participation Outreach Projects Officer

Harriet Goodman, Teacher at St Luke’s Primary School in Islington said: “The day was a fantastic opportunity for some of our Year 5 pupils to get a taste of how exciting both university and engineering can be. Being split into separate teams was probably more of a challenge than working out how to build their shelters, but it was exactly what they needed to get over their fears and to get a real sense of what skills they will need and what they are already capable of.”

A group of Year 6 pupils from St Mary Cray Primary Academy were among those to attend the Engineering Spotlight Day. Teacher at the school, Rachel Haig, said: “The children were greeted by a welcoming bunch of Student Ambassadors who spoke to them about university life and took them on a campus tour. The engineering aspect of the day involved them making a shelter out of newspaper and cable ties, big enough to house the whole group. As the groups were made up of children who were unfamiliar with each other, this really helped them to develop team work and communication skills. The task was challenging and time was short, so resilience skills were definitely required.”

I'm not sure if, before today, any of my children would have considered engineering but after the fun-filled practical activities of today they certainly will now. 
Rachel Haig, Teacher at St Mary Cray Primary Academy

City’s Widening Participation Outreach team work with pupils across London to raise aspirations and help them to build skills needed to fulfil their potential. The aim is to level the playing field, making sure that all children have the same opportunities and access to higher education regardless of their background. Each year, City work with more than 7,000 pupils from local schools, organising activities, workshops and advice sessions covering everything from mathematics tutoring to career guidance.

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City, University of London is an independent member institution of the University of London. Established by Royal Charter in 1836, the University of London consists of 18 independent member institutions with outstanding global reputations and several prestigious central academic bodies and activities.