College offers 'headstart' to young STEM students

This summer, the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences continued to open its doors to young students from schools locally and nationally to give a taster of what might be to come. Promoting the study of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) disciplines, colleagues from across the 9 Schools hosted a range of innovative and engaging activities and challenges, including constructing scale bridges and external industry visits.

From Headstart, a national initiative led by the Engineering Development Trust, to the College’s own innovative outreach programmes, hundreds of young people from schools and colleges were welcomed onto campus this summer.

Headstart

HeadstartHeadstart at Birmingham is a residential summer course, designed to encourage young people who have achieved high grades across the board in their GCSEs, to take up a STEM subject at degree level.

This year, around 30 17-year-olds from across the UK came to Edgbaston for an exploration of the challenges facing our planet. Addressing our ever-growing energy needs and ways to balance these against the need to protect the earth’s dwindling and very precious resources, students took part in lectures and labs to think about the grand challenges and some solutions. The focus of the sessions was to consider infrastructure developments that not only create a fairer global society, providing equal access to energy for all, but that achieve this with super-efficiency and minimal cost to the environment.

Well aware that it will be their generation that will have to solve these problems and protect the planet, the students threw themselves into projects and listened intently to talks and lectures. The campus sessions were underpinned by a popular visit to Jaguar Land Rover, where fuel efficiency and environmental responsibility are taken very seriously and feed into new product design. There was also a presentation by Dr Paul Withey, Rolls-Royce, which was enthusiastically received and, itself fuelled a plethora of questions.

Rounding off the serious issues raised by the course, and to give the students a taste of the complete undergraduate experience, were evening social events. The programme closed with an end of course dinner, ‘echoing’ the end of year student ball, where students received their course certificates.

Headstart Organiser, Edwina Cooke, said:

Feedback from the course was very promising, with several students saying that Birmingham, which had not featured in their list of choices previously, was now a definite contender.

She added: "We had nothing but praise for the way research staff in the Schools of Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, Electronic, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Metallurgy and Materials and Physics and Astronomy had delivered such engaging, thought-provoking talks and lab sessions to help make the course a success.”

 

Discovery Day

Black-HoleAround 150 Year 10 students in school groups from across the Midlands attended the EPS Discovery Day On the 23 June. After being enthused about the subjects in the college by an introduction from Professor Jon Binner, the students spent the morning and afternoon exploring two subjects each from across the college. The students had a choice from Chemical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Computer Science, Mathematics, Mechanical Engineering, Metallurgy and Materials, and Physics and Astronomy allowing them to delve deeper into subjects that interested them personally.

Activities included playing mathematical games, building a bridge, learning about black-holes and taking part in CSI Birmingham to discover the truth behind a car accident. The feedback from teachers was very positive especially with regards to the information provided on the breadth of subject areas open to students if they study in the Physical Sciences or Engineering.

 

Engineering Taster Day

The Engineering Taster Day took place on the 8 July for Year 11 and 12 students and was open to both individual students and school groups, meaning the day was attended by a mix of local schools and those who had travelled from further afield. Over 80 students took part, all of whom were seriously considering studying engineering and related subjects at University.

Dr Costas Constantinou introduced the students to Engineering at Birmingham, as well as the range of careers they could expect from such a degree. The students then split into their chosen streams to have a taste of the subjects at Birmingham. The five subject streams were run by Civil Engineering, Computer Science, Electronic, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Metallurgy and Materials, and Nuclear Engineering.

77% of those who gave feedback rated the day as “Excellent” or “Good” with 69% saying they felt more informed about their University choices.

Kat Grover, College Outreach Officer, said:

A big thank you to those who took time away from their research to be involved in running these excellent workshops to make the EPS outreach days possible. By continuing our interactions with school children of varying ages these outreach days help promote the study of STEM subjects and showcase the University of Birmingham as the ideal place to do so.

Outreach activity in the College runs throughout the year. To find out more about upcoming projects and to get involved visit the College outreach page or contact Kat Grover: k.l.grover@bham.ac.uk