EDA’s students contribute to successful Outreach project, inspiring future engineers

Spacefund, an innovative space-themed educational company based in Canterbury, Kent and the brain-child of partners Jo and Matt Fox recently delivered a high quality, fun, and educational STEM learning activity to Primary school audiences throughout Kent, called “The Biggest Rocket Ever Built”. This exciting new project involved training a group of student engineers from the School of Engineering and Digital Arts, University of Kent, to deliver the show, which featured a giant rocket, time travel and most importantly, engineering, with the aim of enthusing and educating school children about science and technology.

EDA’s student engineers contributed to the creation of the show, bringing new, and engineering influenced ideas and motivations. The engineers not only gave input into the writing of the Spacefund show but also had ideas for props and how to make improvements for the future. From the students’ point of view, the experience gave them insight into how to communicate their enthusiasm for engineering to children. The student performers all found great value in this kind of public engagement. In pre-show discussions, one student engineer in particular questioned whether introducing engineering at this early age (primary school) was too early. After experiencing the project, she admitted that she could now see the impact she was making on the children by the questions that were asked at the end of the shows.

In each of the 20 schools visited, both a teacher and a class evaluated the performance using the following criteria: “Very”, “Quite”, “A little”, “Not at all”. The teachers’ responses were very positive. Their overall satisfaction was a resounding 100% being “Very” satisfied with the show. 95% of the teachers found the show “Very” informative and enjoyable. The pupils also responded very positively too. 85% “Very” much enjoyed the show with a further 10% enjoying it “quite” a lot. In response to the question, “How exciting and interesting do you now think engineering is”, a massive 88% of the children responded positively answering either Very or Quite. 66% of the children responded positively to the question of whether they might like to be an engineer.

The shows not only made a positive impact upon school children about the subject of engineering and choosing engineering as a career, but also encouraged female school pupils to see themselves as engineers. Matt, Jo and the engineers asked the children to draw and label a picture of an engineer in the hope of getting an impression of the things they had learned from the show. It was pleasing to note that many children drew themselves as engineers or at least drew engineers that were of the same sex as themselves. By having a female on the presenting team, the Spacefund team demonstrated that engineering is a career that is accessible to both sexes.

The performances and experience also benefitted the engineers from EDA. Subsequently, 8 of the student engineers also signed up to be STEM Ambassadors with the aim of getting involved in further outreach activities and they now have the skills to confidently and enthusiastically explain engineering to younger audiences. The engineers brought a whole new aspect to the show and were fantastic role models for the children.

“When I decided to take part I was actually expecting something less fun than this. It was great that this show was so fun and informative / educational at the same time. Both the pupils and myself had a lot of fun on every show.” Christina Komliki (Student Engineer)

“The project helped me gain knowledge and helped me understand new things.” Anurag Chand (Student Engineer)

“After each show, finding out that the majority of students were thinking of becoming engineers made me happy.” Ali Yasar (Student Engineer)

“I’ve gained knowledge on how to describe certain terms to younger people and also how to answer their questions.” Thereze Logan (Student Engineer)

All of the children that saw the shows now have a better understanding of engineers and what engineers can, and have achieved. It is hoped that as a result of this project and future endeavours, that more young people will consider engineering as a vibrant, exciting career choice.