Penketh High School students win United Utilities engineering challenge

A team of Year 9 pupils from Penketh High School have emerged victorious from this year’s The Challenge Academy Trust (TCAT) engineering challenge organised by United Utilities.

The water company, which has its headquarters in Lingley Mere, runs the STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) initiative to give youngsters the chance to put their classroom learning to the test. It also aims to inspire them to consider a STEM career and highlight United Utilities as a potential local employer.

winners - Penketh High - Windy Lakes.jpgThe 80 pupils who took part this year, from Beamont Collegiate Academy, Bridgewater High School, Padgate Academy, Penketh High School, and Sir Thomas Boteler Church of England High School, had 20 weeks to research and develop plans to build a community centre in the Lake District. Each week they worked with mentors from United Utilities to put their problem-solving skills to the test and come up with their designs. The culmination was a Dragon’s Den style pitch to ‘sell’ their proposal to a panel of judges - Joanne Rands, Head of Process Delivery; Tracey Dempsey, Chief Engineer (Hydraulics and Civil); Sian Taylor, Head of Property; and Gemma Rathbone, Media Relations Manager.

From pedal-powered community centres to technical colleges, this year’s teams came up with a wide range of innovative and sustainable ideas which demonstrated their research, design, problem-solving, and teamwork skills.

The overall winning team from Penketh High School proposed a community centre called Windy Lakes, which had the needs of the community in mind and was designed to emulate the local hills.

Joanne Rands, Head of Process Delivery at United Utilities, said: “Every pupil is a winner for taking part in this challenge. It can be very daunting, especially standing in front of the judges to present the final projects, so everyone should be very proud of themselves.

“The pupils have shown incredible resilience and innovative thinking over the past few months and have really impressed our mentors and judges.

“The winning team stood out for their research into the local community of Coniston, and their building design was particularly impressive in the way it incorporated the landscape of the Lake District.

“Well done to all the pupils who took part!”

Nathan Freeman, Graduate Engineer at United Utilities, was one of the mentors. “It’s been a fantastic experience for me as much as the pupils,” he said.

“I’ve been particularly impressed by their innovative thinking and the fresh ideas that they bring to a problem, and how they tested things out along the way. I’m really proud to have helped my group, and I hope I have been able to give them an insight into life as an engineer.”

Richard Doyle, Head of Chemistry at Penketh High School, said: “Giving pupils the chance to go beyond the curriculum and build new skills is something we’re very passionate about at Penketh, so an opportunity like this with a large local company is something that we really grabbed hold of.

“The challenge gets pupils working as team, talking to people in different jobs, and making new friendships, all while putting their learning into practice in a different way from classroom learning.

“We’re really proud of all our pupils who took part, and are delighted that we had the winning team for the second year in a row.”

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