Award-winning United Utilities project to encourage Warrington youngsters into engineering enters sixth year

14 Nov 2022

An award-winning project led by United Utilities will this year give 80 Warrington pupils from The Challenge Academy Trust the chance to explore engineering as a future study and career option.

The challenge-based project gives Year 9 students the opportunity to work with some of the company’s engineers to put their problem-solving skills to the test, culminating in a Dragon’s Den style pitch to ‘sell’ their solution at the Warrington Wolves stadium next spring.

The youngsters, from Beamont Collegiate Academy, Bridgewater High School, Padgate Academy, Penketh High School, and Sir Thomas Boteler Church of England High School, will work in groups over the next 20 weeks to come up with plans to build a community centre in the Lake District.

The brief encompasses all sorts of real-life challenges that United Utilities faces, and aligns with STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) competencies on the school curriculum. During the challenge pupils will use a range of skills, including research, design, problem-solving, meeting deadlines and working as a team.

They will have to overcome a number of obstacles along the way, such as testing appropriate building designs, getting equipment and materials to a remote location, and ensuring the completed building has the required amenities. They will have to complete the project within a set budget, while also ensuring they address environmental challenges and provide a sustainable solution that is appropriate for the location and the needs of the community.

Each week a mentor from United Utilities will help the groups with specific tasks, and they will have use of the purpose-built STEM Centre and FabLab at Beamont Collegiate Academy, which is sponsored by United Utilities, where they can use equipment such as 3D printers to help bring their visions to life.

Joanne Rands, Head of Process Delivery at United Utilities, said: “We’re really proud of our challenge project for helping pupils explore a number of engineering options for their future studies and careers. Giving youngsters the chance to try their hands at some real-life tasks is a fantastic way to showcase the importance of engineers, and by working directly with some of our team they will also gain valuable insight into what a career in engineering could look like.

“Our programme has a particular focus on encouraging girls and students from deprived backgrounds into STEM careers, and over the past five years youngsters who took part say they have become more interested in this area as a result of the challenge.

“This year’s pupils made a great start with the first task at our induction session and we can’t wait to see them develop their ideas over the next few months.”

Chris Hillidge, Director of STEM at The Challenge Academy Trust, said: “The Challenge Academy Trust is proud of our ongoing partnership with United Utilities which has been so successful over the past 6 years.

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“The TCAT Challenge gives Warrington students the opportunity to work alongside real industry professionals on a real-world engineering project over a five-month period. The experience they gain during the competition will benefit them immensely as they move through education into the world of work with teamwork, presentation skills and resilience just some of the skills that the pupils will develop.

“TCAT pupils thrive on challenge and through our innovative collaboration with United Utilities, they get the opportunity to show just how creative and innovative they can be!”

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