Aberdeen pupils challenged to create energy plan and complete engineering challenge

Pupils from Lochside Academy were challenged to design shelters for island residents as part of the Shell Engineering Challenge.

The Shell 2023 Engineering Challenge encourages pupils to consider a career in engineering 

HUNDREDS of Aberdeen school pupils have taken part in the Shell 2023 Engineering Challenge, which tasked them with restoring power to a remote island after a hurricane, using their engineering skills.  

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Between June 12 and 15, pupils from Harlaw Academy participated in a series of workshops delivered by STEM charity TechFest. 

The Shell 2023 Engineering Challenge was designed to encourage pupils to make connections with careers in engineering as well as giving them a chance to learn more about the energy transition. As part of the scenario a team of Shell engineers from Aberdeen was brought on-site to help.  

The pupils’ brief was to come up with solutions to restore power and deliver shelter to the island’s population in the wake of the storm, supported by the team from Shell who brought equipment and materials. 

The challenge has also been completed by pupils from Lochside Academy, Old Machar Academy and Bucksburn Academy. Over 500 pupils from the three schools attended the workshops and more schools are expected to complete the programme in the coming months. 

Sarah Chew, managing director at TechFest said, “The Shell 2023 Engineering Challenge is aimed at pupils in S1 and S2. The young people work together in small groups and are challenged to come up with a plan to enable a remote Scottish island’s residents to cope in the aftermath of a destructive weather event utilising their skills and knowledge.  

“Our region regularly feels the power of the weather. In February Storm Otto brought winds in excess of 80mph and resulted in power outages, school closures and caused disruption across the area’s transport networks. 

“Providing the pupils with a chance to collaborate with engineers and subsequently design a solution for a real-life situation could spark an interest that results in a career in engineering and understanding of the energy transition.” 

2022 figures from the Scottish Qualifications Authority show that at Higher level, the number of physics entries decreased to 8,045, from 8,480 in 2021.  

Physics is a key subject for anyone wanting to consider a career in engineering, it is therefore crucial that we take every opportunity to engage with young people and encourage them to consider their options.  

Sarah Chew added: “Throughout the event the young people are dealing with a real-life example of a scenario where engineering skills are key to finding a successful outcome, and given recent events, it is a scenario that many of them will be able to relate to.  

“During the challenge they have input from professional engineers from a range of disciplines. This provides opportunities to discuss subject choice, career paths and showcase the rewards offered by an engineering career.” 

The pupils involved in the Shell 2023 Engineering Challenge are at the start of their secondary school journey. Sarah Chew underlines the importance of this. “The challenge provides an opportunity to engage with pupils at a time when their subject choices are still ahead of them.” 

The Shell 2023 Engineering Challenge also helps the pupils to develop wider skills, with groups presenting their solutions, describing their reasoning and giving an insight into their problem solving. 

Beth Nicol, design and technology teacher at Lochside Academy, was part of the team of people who organised and supervised the event when it took place at the school earlier this year.  

She said, “The Shell Engineering Challenge was a brilliant opportunity for the S2 pupils to develop their problem-solving, communication, teamwork and creativity skills in a way that is not often possible in the classroom.  

“The engagement of professionals provided a real-life context to the activity that engaged the students and highlighted different career options available. It was excellent to see pupils working together with their peers and industry professionals, using their newly developed knowledge of renewable power, and having the confidence to explain their ideas and solutions to a large group.”   

“At the event finale recognition is given, not only for the best solution, but also for other elements including best teamwork and best communication. We want to highlight the importance of developing skills such as these which are vital to their futures,” added Sarah Chew. 

“This is a great initiative to be involved with,” said Mairi McKay, social investment advisor at Shell. “It is fantastic to see so many young people engaging with engineering and, through an exercise based on a real-life situation, gaining a wider understanding of engineering roles.   

“Working with the Shell engineers provides an invaluable opportunity to see engineering in action. We hope that the insights the pupils take from the exercise will help them to understand the far broader potential of their school-based learning and the implications it could have for their future careers.” 

TechFest is an Aberdeen-based charity which aims to engage young people in the four main STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and encourage them to go on to follow a career which utilises these skills by demonstrating that they are both fun and relevant in day-to-day life.  

For more information on TechFest, visit www.techfest.org.uk  

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