An innovative outreach project to challenge outdated views of manufacturing and inspire primary school children to think about how we make things has won funding from the Royal Academy of Engineering.
Engaging school children in how stuff gets made
The project, which is led by the Institute for Manufacturing (IfM) in the Department of Engineering in collaboration with Churchill College and the University of Cambridge’s Faculty of Education, was one of a small number selected from over 120 applications in the Academy’s Ingenious public engagement programme. The pilot project will be run in schools across rural Cambridgeshire during the next school year.
Leader of the ‘How does stuff get made?’ project and IfM Deputy Director, Dr Tim Minshall, says the project’s aim is to widen the appreciation of what manufacturing is, what manufacturing engineers do and why their work is so important. He added: “We hope that it will help address the sometimes inaccurate and incomplete perceptions of ‘manufacturing’ held by many primary school children and their teachers.
"Such early stage perceptions can influence pupils’ attitudes towards STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects more generally, and may set them on a path that constrains future choices of study and careers.
"This project will use our network of manufacturing engineering graduates to run a series of activities to help pupils make informed choices about future subjects of study which will, in turn, provide them with wider career opportunities.”
Dr Minshall, who has run engineering and science outreach programs in schools for more than 14 years went on to say: “We want to do three things with this project: Firstly, we want to help primary pupils and their teachers learn more about what modern manufacturing – in all its exciting and diverse forms – is really about.
"Secondly, we want to help our manufacturing engineering graduates develop the skills to communicate as effectively as possible with a primary level audience. Our view is that one of the best ways to demonstrate real understanding of a subject is to be able to explain it in a simple and engaging manner to any audience, and this is a vital professional skill for all engineers today.
"Thirdly, we’d like this pilot project to be an opportunity to explore innovative ways of helping primary schools engage with the manufacturing sector, one which remains a vital part of the UK economy.”
The project received £7,000 from the Royal Academy of Engineers and is also supported by funding support from Churchill College and the Sharman Family Trust.
The Institute for Manufacturing (IfM) provides a unique environment for the creation and sharing of new ideas and approaches to modern industrial practice.