80 schoolgirls from across Yorkshire proved they have the ingenuity, dynamism and teamwork to become the engineers of the future when the popular annual ‘SES Hovercraft Day’ challenge returned to The Mount School in York yesterday (28 February).
Now in its fourth year, the event, sponsored by SES Engineering Services, and organised by J and J Events, brought together Year Six (age 11) girls from eight local schools and challenged them to work together to design and build their own hovercrafts, before racing their creations in an exciting knock-out tournament to determine the overall winner.
Throughout the day the York girls’ Quaker school hosted workshops with Year Six girls from Belmont Grosvenor, Brackenfield, Knavesmire Primary, St Paul's Primary, St Wilfrid's RC Primary, The Mount Junior and newcomers Froebelian School. At the end of a thrilling race, a joint team from Belmont Grosvenor and Froebelian School were presented with the winning trophy.
The students worked together in teams alongside their own teaching staff and post-graduate students from the University of York. Each craft was powered by a leaf blower engine in order to carry one ‘pilot’ from each team along a specially built racing track.
At the end of the workshop and before the races were due to start, the hovercrafts were judged for their design by SES Planner Rachel Schofield, who said: “I have been absolutely wowed by the girls’ creativity, tenacity and commitment to the challenge. The finished hovercrafts were outstanding and seeing everyone so passionate about their teams racing was extremely encouraging. You never know, in years to come, some of these girls could be my future colleagues at SES.
“Equality and diversity within engineering have been a hot media topic for the last few years now and it’s widely recognised that the industry is playing catch up.
“I strongly believe that it is the responsibility of the entire industry to engage with the younger generation and equip them with the skills to successfully meet the challenges of tomorrow.
“I work in an amazing sector which is full of inspirational projects and opportunities; so events such as the SES Hovercraft Day are absolutely vital in making careers exciting and accessible to young women in the construction industry.”
MP for York Central, Rachel Maskell said of the event: “The UK needs more female engineers and it is fantastic to see the Mount School and the sponsor, SES Engineering Services, encouraging girls to design and build their own Hovercrafts.
“This is a fantastic initiative and I hope the project will encourage more girls to study engineering and physics. We have a shortage of good engineers and we need to fill this skills gap. There are well paid jobs available for skilled engineers and it is essential that companies employ both men and women. We need to ensure that firms have a diverse and inclusive workforce.”
Adrienne Richmond, Principal of The Mount School, said: "We at The Mount are very proud to host pupils and staff for this fourth SES Hovercraft Day. At The Mount we have always been very passionate about STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths) education. We have taken that one step further, turning STEM into STEAM, by integrating the arts and aesthetic design elements into scientific innovation. The pupils have achieved that today with their aesthetically pleasing and also functional creations. We hope that they will continue to be inspired by today's experience and pursue STEAM studies in the years to come."
Joanne Crowther of J and J Events, which designed and presented the SES Hovercraft Day, said: “We are delighted to return to The Mount School and York for this workshop with the younger girls; they tend to absorb the concepts surprisingly quickly. Their enthusiasm is both infectious and endearing and we hope they take away with them a renewed enthusiasm for science, maths and creative engineering.”
St Wilfrid's School Year 6 teacher Catherine Quinn added: "The girls had a wonderful time and enjoyed every moment of it. I am sure it is an experience they will never forget."
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