Busting myths and building bridges: Ambassadors at Ashmount School

9 April 2018


Collage of three QEPrize ambassadors.

How do you inspire the next generation of engineers? It turns out that a batch of ‘flying’ eggs, some eye-catching PowerPoints and a whole lot of spaghetti can make a pretty good start. On 21-23 March, a team of three Ambassadors visited Ashmount School in Islington, to inspire students as part of their STEM week. Their lessons were inspired by engineering ‘heroes’ in the form of Andrea Beatty’s characters, ‘Iggy Peck, Architect’ (year 1) and ‘Rosie Revere, Engineer’ (year 2). Year 3 learned about Lonnie G Johnson (NASA engineer who invented the super soaker). Here are their stories:

Yasmin Ali: Year 1

“I volunteered to help at Ashmount School as I am passionate about promoting engineering careers. I am a chemical engineer, but I decided to do a bridge-building exercise, based on one of the Dyson Foundation's STEM Challenge cards (see my video about it here, with the Women’s Engineering Society’s Young Members Board!). With the help of Mark Hipwell, another QEPrize ambassador, I taught the children about different bridge designs and how to mimic these using nothing but bundles of spaghetti and elastic bands! I taught year 1s to come up with designs and construct some fantastic bridges. The kids learned about structures, making and engineering, but also that they had to work together as a team. Don’t worry – I saved all the spaghetti and can make plenty more bridges in future classes!”

Linda Ejike: Year 2

“When I was at school, I personally did not know much about engineering, what it involved and what you could do with an engineering degree, so when the opportunity came up to go to Ashmount I was really excited! I showed the students one of my favourite engineering games, using cardboard, paper, tape and scissors. The aim was to build something to protect a boiled egg from breaking when falling from 1.5 or 2 meters up. I think the lesson went really well – there were a lot of smiles and everybody worked hard to design their flying objects. It is so important for students to know what engineering is and that it can be fun, so I would definitely do this again!”

Alex Goff: Year 3

“Engineering is so often misrepresented, especially to young people. I wanted to use Lonnie Johnson, an American serial inventor, as a starting point to show just how many places engineering turns up in daily life. It was easy to find examples! I told them all about Boston Dynamics’ back-flipping robots, Richard Browning’s Iron Man suit, SpaceX landing two rockets simultaneously and how Cadbury makes its chocolate. I wanted to show that, no matter what they were interested in, something in engineering would fit. I left the room with many of them saying they wanted to become an engineer.

It was a great opportunity and I would encourage anyone to use the resources we now have and deliver a session yourself if you are passionate about engineering. "Feedback from the event was very positive, with the school saying that all three talks had ‘honestly been some of our most inspirational workshops this STEM week’. This is the start of many similar projects for the QEPrize Ambassadors – sign up to our newsletter to find out more!

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