CMPP Fund STEM Problem Solving Challenge

Challenges that Inspire!

Local charity SATRO provides real-life experience of all aspects of the working world, particularly in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) through a diverse and challenging range of programmes. The team work closely with schools, businesses and volunteers to inspire young people, fuelling their passion and enthusiasm for their future careers.

This fast-paced, engineering based, event was available for 200 students drawn from a variety of local Secondary Schools from across Farnborough, Aldershot, Camberley and Fleet and kindly hosted by Tomlinscote Secondary School in Frimley as an after-school event. This event formed one of 5 regional heats culminated in a final event in March 2018 hosted by ACS International School, Cobham.

This exciting and impactful event was a practical engineering challenge that encompassed approximately 800 students overall aged 11-18 year olds across 57 schools over 5 regional heats within Surrey, Hampshire, Berkshire and South London. The Challenge was "engineered" to give the young people an exciting and competitive opportunity to apply their theoretical engineering knowledge and hands-on team-working and problem-solving.

Each team of young people aged between 11 and 19 were given a folder of materials and 90 minutes to design and build a lighting gantry/structure onto a corriflute sheet, which could be orientated in any direction. It had to support a light bulb as high as possible (Y) above the surface of the table, and as far as possible beyond the base on which the structure was built (X). The bulb could not be more than 100 cm above the table top. The structure's base had be a piece of A4 sheet of corriflute which could not be altered in any way; it could not be stuck to the table and the surface in contact with the table could not be altered in any way either!

Two points were awarded for every horizontal centimetre (X) that the bulb extends beyond the base edge and one point for every vertical centimetre (Y) above the surface. If the light bulb is switched on for the judging, then all points awarded above were quadrupled (i.e. x 4).

By engaging students in a fun and innovative way it exposes them to concepts and ideas they may not have encountered at school. It enables students to use their theoretical knowledge of physics and engineering and put it into practice. It also embeds key employability skills such as teamwork, resilience, time management, communication skills. At a time when funding is being cut for schools the chances for students to enrich and expand their learning is limited; this Challenge is key for inspiring young people about their future careers.

During the event, SATRO show several short but high impact films about engineering in the working world to inspire them even further! There were 10 volunteers on the night from a range of careers within STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) on had to assist and judge the teams.

Schools bring teams of 6 students for one or several of the age groups to compete; quite often the schools select students based on their aptitude and not necessarily their friendship groups. This has the benefit of students being able to work with others from their year group they may not already know. Students also gain from increased resilience, self-confidence and self-esteem when they solve the Challenge even if they do not win!

SATRO always survey the students and teachers they work with and are delighted to advise that it was a highly successful and competitive event which students really enjoy, and the benefits are clear:

92.4% of those that attended this year said that the event had helped them improve skills such as problem solving, teamwork and time-management

72% of students said that the event had helped them think about their future and which subjects they would like to study at school or university

Student Feedback

I think the nature of this Challenge and SATRO in general promotes good team work and social skills; something I believe is essential to all kind of teams.

Taking on a unique challenge that forced me to think differently

Thinking collaboratively and creatively to create an interesting design

Managing to create a working design in only 20 minutes after our first idea was disallowed and making it work reliably.

Applying simple solutions to complex problems It was fun and innovative

The best bit was when it worked after it had failed

The change to work together on a problem that we would never usually be able to attempt in the curriculum and coming up with designs and using physics knowledge to diagnose issues

Adapting our design; it actually improved!

Improving our design after the first test to change it so it would actually move; teamwork makes the dream work!

Being challenged in a way different to how school normally works

Teacher Feedback

Great competition Innovative and challenging!

Well managed and well-designed tasks

Our students enjoyed the challenge and competing against other schools

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