Warrington pupils take on United Utilities sustainability challenge to enhance STEM learning

Students from Beamont Collegiate Academy in Orford have put their science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) learning to the test recently through a special sustainability challenge hosted by United Utilities.

A group of 31 pupils from the Warrington school visited the North West water company’s headquarters in Lingley Mere to work with staff on a task of developing a sustainable school for the future. While the brief was fictitious, it included many examples of the problems that are currently facing engineers and scientists as they plan for the buildings and communities of the future.

Members of the company’s Environment, Planning and Innovation team hosted the session, which started with an introduction to sustainable cities, and activities to help ‘break the ice’ among the groups and challenge their creativity and speedy thinking, The youngsters, from year 10, then embarked on the main challenge of how they would develop a sustainable school, considering transport, energy and recreational space, with a budget of £100k. They had to manage the trade-off between cost and sustainability, and also used three ‘innovation wildcards’ which allowed them to consider solutions without being restricted by budget.

There was also the opportunity for pupils to find out about potential careers with the company to help inspire them as they consider their options for the coming years.

At the end of the day each team presented their final proposal to a panel of United Utilities judges, with winners in categories including best visual designs and best use of budget.

The overall winner was Team 2, who impressed the judges with their consideration of all three sustainability themes, as we as their emphasis on using recreational space for both social value and the environment. They were also praised for their great teamwork and presentation, and their innovation wildcard – using a type of pavement called Pavegen to generate electricity as students walk across it - also stood out.

Elspeth Fury, Future Leader Graduate at United Utilities, helped to organise the event. She said: “It’s really important that we as a business encourage youngsters into STEM careers and show them the exciting variety of opportunities that are available - inviting pupils along to work with our teams and put their skills to the test is a great way to do that.

“The students really got stuck in to the challenge and came up with so many innovative ideas. We were all really impressed with how they tackled problems from different angles and worked together to develop their proposals.

“We’re really looking forward to hosting more of these events and inspiring youngsters to get involved with sustainability in water, energy, transport and more, whether in their daily lives or through their careers.”

Chris Hillidge, Director of STEM at Beamont Collegiate Academy, added: “The continued collaboration between United Utilities and The Challenge Academy Trust is incredibly valuable to our young people.

“The opportunity to experience a STEM workplace and work, alongside professionals, on real-world engineering challenges prepares our students for their exciting futures. The investment made into Warrington’s young people from United Utilities is widening opportunities for our talented pupils to benefit from the fantastic apprenticeship and graduate training programs on offer in the town.”

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