Roger Swift

Inspiring all young people and especially girls to study subjects in Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths and pursue a career in STEM is something we are very passionate about at AIS. We try to get involved with local community initiatives that support this as much as possible and were delighted when the opportunity to work with Cheadle Hulme High School (CHHS) arose.

CHHS Design & Technology department entered teams of aspiring Year 9 and Year 10 Engineering students into the first ever FIRST Tech Challenge UK & Ireland robotics championships, in which 600 high school age students across the North West of England competed for 7 awards and the chance to be in the US finals.

Jenny Parkin one of our Development Engineers, together with Engineers from Thales and Auto Trader, mentored 4 outstanding teams from CHHS who dedicated time after school to design, build and programme a working robot, using instructions that were issued by the competition organisers, FIRST (For Inspiration & Recognition of Science & Technology). The teams met each week to work on their robots, with each member taking on a key role – from hardware and software designers and engineers, to communications officers and project managers – to reflect the diversity of professionals involved in ‘real life’ projects.

The final event, which took place on Friday 15th March, “was a brilliant experience, with gaming arenas constructed right next to the runway and underneath the Concorde at Manchester Conference Centre” says Rachel Brown, Subject Leader for D&T at CHHS (and FIRST Tech Challenge North West Regional Hub Leader) who sends her thanks to the industry mentors, “without whose support we would never have been ready to compete!”

“Around 40 school teams were competing on the day which made for a fast paced and exciting atmosphere, where teams went head to head, but also cooperated and formed alliances with teams of likeminded students from other schools too. Whilst the competition was fierce and was the focus of our efforts, the initiative has a strong focus on cooperation and teamworking, readying young people for the realities of a career in Engineering. A particular benefit of the competition has been the opportunity it has given our students to engage and collaborate with industry professionals, utilising their expertise and skills and getting to see the kind of opportunities a STEM career could offer them.”

Overall the project was a huge success and a highly rewarding experience for everyone involved: including the whole of AIS, hearing about it back at the offices from Jenny, who’d also like to say “a big congratulations to Cheadle Hulme High School for making it onto the BBC News! It’s so well deserved – I was really impressed with the students’ approach to their design work, for example how they coordinated in teams to develop innovative lifting and rotating robotic arms, and with the gracious professionalism this challenge was all about.

It’s been a pleasure to work with such enthusiastic students and their inspirational teachers at the high school, along with the other mentors and leaders of the FIRST Tech Challenge. What a fantastic achievement in promoting engineering as being accessible to all, as well as great fun!”

Simon Burras, AIS’ Managing Director said: “It has been a real privilege to be able to work with such a talented group of young people and to see their enthusiasm. STEM is providing a gateway into engineering – a sector that is key for the economic growth of UK plc.”