Cumbria based businesses, particularly those involved in decommissioning at Sellafield, identified the need for more young people to have training in control technology and remote handling skills. The FIRST LEGO League introduces pupils aged 9 to 16 years to the concepts of control technology through a live challenge programme.
Through a link with a STEM Ambassador working in local industry, pupils, teachers and parents can understand the need for these skills and the practical application into business. Employers also emphasise that they need additional skills from young people as well as academic achievement. These employability skills such as working in a team, being able to communicate effectively, solve problems and work on your own initiative are all promoted by participation in the FIRST LEGO League. It is anticipated that some of the pupils taking part in FLL will go on to be the STEM apprentices, technicians and graduates of the future.
The 2017 event was held in Wednesday 1 February at St Bees with 20 teams in attendance. Ennerdale and Kinniside Primary School (Ennerdale Engineers) were placed second and represented their school and Copeland in the National Finals at Bristol on 26 February. In Bristol, Ennerdale Engineers were runners-up in the Robot Performance section (Robot Game). This is a tremendous performance given that 48 teams were taking part. Ennerdale have been invited to go to Denmark for the European open competition in the home of Lego with an option to go to Bath for the Global Finals.
Tony Gill, director of STEM Cumbria, said “After the initial pilot project in 2016 it was evident there was a real appetite for this project in the local schools. The children fully engage in the development of computer sciences and computing skills which, combined with problem solving, teamwork and communication skills help young people to become more employable in STEM careers in West Cumbria. The link with a STEM Ambassador from a supporting business helps team members understand the practical application of the skills they are developing.”
It is anticipated that after the first 5 years of funding and based on successful and positive outcomes the programme will be self-sustaining and that schools will negotiate with their sponsors for funding in future years.
Other funding comes from: LLWR, REACT Foundation, Energus, Balfour Beatty, David Allen IT, ARUP, Sellafield Ltd.