Three schools from Wales and Warwickshire were the main winners at the first ever ‘Design and Make Challenge’ organised by the Manufacturing Assembly Network (MAN).
Alcester Grammar, Southam College and Ysgol Bro Dinefwr beat off competition from four other rivals to take the Manufacturing, Innovation and Efficiency titles respectively, impressing judges with their teamwork, creativity and ability to meet the project brief.
In total, 28 students swapped their daily lessons for the chance to test out their engineering and design skills by using basic materials and tools to make a device capable of lifting a 13kg block of stainless steel using just a friction grip.
The event, which was hosted by WMG, is the first in a number of activities being created by MAN in order to help it bridge the skills gap and start developing a pipeline of future engineers.
“Industry still has an image issue and we can no longer sit on our hands and just expect the Government to come up with a solution for getting more skills into our sector,” explained Austin Owens, Founder of Grove Design and the driving force behind the initiative.
“We want to get young people excited about design and engineering so decided to bring the collective strengths of the group together and host a special challenge that would get them thinking about STEM skills, designing and making a solution for a real engineering problem.”
He continued: “Seven schools came forward and, I have to be honest, the atmosphere and energy was electric, especially with our young engineers providing hints and tips along the way. Out of the concepts created, five of them successfully lifted the block and the other two were brave solutions that came really close…a pretty impressive result.
“The three winning teams each received an Ultimaker 3D Printing machine for their schools. These were kindly donated by the CREATE Education project, which brings together game-changing technology with inspirational content and creative minds.
“They provide free resources and support to help introduce and embed 3D Printing in schools, including professional development, lesson resources, projects, ideas and a free 3D Printer Loan scheme.”
In addition to Alcester Grammar, Southam College and Ysgol Bro Dinefwr, teams also came from Kineton High, Lawrence Sheriff, Myton and President Kennedy Schools.
They were all given a box of materials, including dowelling and plywood, and given the task of sketching out concepts before turning their designs into reality by using basic hand tools to come up with a device capable of lifting the block with just a hoist and two hooks.
A prototype testing area was also set up to encourage pupils to put their ideas through their paces before submitting their final solution.
Ellie Barker, a pupil at Alcester Grammar School, was delighted to take part: “It was a quality day and a great opportunity to do something different, working as part of a team to solve a problem. It certainly made me want to focus more on being an engineer… industry needs more female engineers!”
Ysgol Bro Dinefwr’s Aaron Morgan agreed: “The MAN challenge opened up our minds to different types of engineering and clearly demonstrated what skills you might need if you want to follow a career in this sector. It was a really good day and we’d love to do it again.”
The Manufacturing Assembly Network is a collective of eight sub-contract manufacturers and an engineering design agency.
It is made up of Alucast, Barkley Plastics, Brandauer, C-MAC SMT, Grove Design, KimberMills International, Mec Com, Muller Holdings and PP Control & Automation.
Together they offer every engineering discipline imaginable, including automation and control systems, casting, design, forging, plastic injection moulding, PCB development and precision machining and precision stamped parts.
MAN is also currently working with Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) to improve processes and commercialise new technologies.