School pupils from Inverness proved victorious in the final of a nationwide competition held in Aberdeen last week, which was organised by Global Underwater Hub, the leading trade and industry development body for the UK’s underwater sectors.
Youngsters from schools in County Durham, Glasgow, Inverness, Manchester, Somerset and West Sussex were in the Granite City to participate in the final of Global Underwater Hub’s STEM Challenge competition. The initiative sees 13 and 14-year-old pupils test their science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills to design, build, programme and market a model ROV (remotely operated vehicle) using Lego Mindstorms.
It was a team of six pupils from Charleston Academy in Inverness that clinched the title, beating fellow pupils from Turnbull High School in Glasgow, Manchester’s Waterhead Academy, Wolsingham School based in County Durham, Chilton Trinity School from Bridgewater in Somerset and St Oscar Romero Catholic School from Worthing in West Sussex.
Organised by Global Underwater Hub, and run with the support of The Smallpeice Trust, the STEM Challenge provides a platform for school pupils to apply their STEM knowledge and skills to learn how they can be used in their future careers. The programme also demonstrates to the pupils the breadth of job opportunities that are offered by companies working across the underwater industry.
The final, which was held at Global Underwater Hub’s office in Westhill, Aberdeen, saw the six teams compete to design, build, operate and market a small model ROV made from Lego Mindstorms. The hardware-software platform enables the development of programable mechanical robots using Lego bricks, modular sensors, motors and other Lego parts from the Technic line.
A panel of judges made up of individuals working in the underwater industry decided the winners. Along with marking the teams on the design and functionality of their creations, the judges also looked at how the pupils had worked together throughout the day, and the quality and delivery of their marketing presentations that concluded the competition.
Charleston Academy pupils jump for joy after winning the GUH STEM Challenge competition
During their trip to Aberdeen, the pupils visited the offices of leading geo-data specialist Fugro, gaining an insight into some of the firm’s underwater inspection technologies which are used to support the energy industry. Along with touring the ROV workshop and tooling centre, where they learned about how ROVs are constructed and maintained, the pupils were shown Fugro’s remote operations centre. Featuring advanced streaming technology, the centre allows onshore inspection engineers to visualise, command and control eROVs hundreds of miles away. The pupils and their teachers found the visit to be of real interest and enjoyed seeing the ROVs up close, with some parts being operated, and learning how the equipment is used and discovering more about some of the career opportunities offered by the underwater industry.
To reach the final of the competition the pupils had won their regional heats which were held in Blyth, Bristol, Glasgow, Inverness, Manchester and Newmarket. In total, nearly 300 pupils from 49 schools took part in the 2023 competition. Illustrating the appeal of the competition, St Oscar Romero Catholic School made a 250-mile round trip from Worthing in West Sussex to compete in and win the Newmarket regional heat.
It is the second consecutive year that a team from the Inverness has lifted the STEM Challenge trophy. In last year’s competition, pupils from Culloden Academy were triumphant in the national final.
Neil Gordon, chief executive of Global Underwater Hub, said: "Our STEM Challenge competition provides a platform for us to engage with school pupils across the United Kingdom, offering insight into the underwater industry and an opportunity for them to apply and develop their STEM skills.
"All of the pupils did an excellent job to reach the national final, with the trip to Aberdeen giving them a chance to see up close some of the technology and equipment that is used in the underwater industry. The work put in by all six teams at the final was incredible, with the Charleston Academy team just edging it in what was a close competition.
"The industries that make up the underwater sector, whether that is oil and gas, renewable energies, defence, aquaculture, marine science or telecoms, offer a huge range of career prospects, with many requiring STEM-based knowledge. As industry continues to digitise and technology evolves, skills such as coding, which all of the finalists had in abundance, will play an increasingly crucial role in workplaces.
"Delivering the STEM Challenge competition would not be possible without the support of our partners and sponsors, for which we are very grateful. This programme forms part of our commitment to our members and wider industry to develop skills and capabilities that will help to drive our competitive advantage.”
This year’s STEM Challenge programme was sponsored by OPITO, BP, DOF Subsea, Fugro, J+S Subsea, Loganair, Osbit, Pharos Offshore Group, Pryme Group, Subsea7 and Subsea Innovation.
Planning for the 2024 STEM Challenge competition will get underway shortly and if your organisation is interested in supporting the initiative, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.