York schoolgirls fly through University of Bradford’s Hovercraft Challenge

Aspiring young engineers from schools across Yorkshire took part in a unique challenge at The Mount School in York to build a fleet of hovercrafts, organised by the University of Bradford’s School of Engineering and Informatics.

The futuristic brief saw tech-savvy pupils from eight North Yorkshire schools compete in an action packed challenge, which culminated in an exciting race to find out which was the quickest.

The University of Bradford’s team tours schools across the UK to encourage young people to consider further study and careers in engineering and technology.

The event, which took place at the Dalton Terrace based school and was sponsored by Shepherd Engineering Services (SES), based just nearby at Mill Mount, involved the youngest age group ever to take part in the project in its 14-year history, made up of 10 teams of girls from years five – eight at the schools (age nine – 13).

Recent research from the Institution of Engineering and Technology found that just six per cent of the UK’s professional engineers are women.

Today’s challenge was designed to introduce basic engineering concepts to students in a fun and engaging way.

The competition was judged by special guest BBC Look North presenter Cathy Killick, a former Mount School pupil and SES senior engineer, regional planner Hadeil Miller, while the teams were guided by Jack Bradley, a senior lecturer at the University of Bradford’s School of Engineering and Informatics.

The winning team was made up of eight girls from Scarcroft Primary School in York.

The hovercrafts were 1mx1m in size and designs from the teams included a mouse, a spaceship and a Formula One racing car.

All materials were provided to the teams with each craft powered by a leaf blower engine in order to carry one ‘pilot’ from each team along a specially built racing track.

The schools which took part in the challenge were: Easingwold Primary School, Scarcroft Primary School, St Paul’s Primary School, Terrington Hall School, Moorlands, The Mount School, Barkston RC Primary School and Minster School.

Jack Bradley said the challenge was ideal for inspiring some healthy competition among the teams.

He said:

“This is the youngest age group we’ve had involved with the challenge but the results were just as impressive.”

Each member of the winning team, “Zoom Away” from Scarcroft Primary School, won an exclusive goody bag and Amazon vouchers.

SES senior regional planner Hadeil Miller said:

“I was really impressed with all of the girls taking part today, there were definitely some budding engineers of the future in the room!

“I hope this challenge has inspired some of the girls to consider a future career in engineering – it’s proved to be a fantastic career for me.

“You never know, in years to come some could be my future colleagues at SES.”

Scarcroft Primary’s winning team said:

“We’ve all had a super time today and it’s been a lot of fun.

“The hovercraft challenge is a great way to learn more about engineering.”

The Hovercraft Challenge was originally devised by Professor Harry Marsh of Durham University and has since been picked up by the University of Bradford.

Mount School Principal Julie Lodrick said:

“The atmosphere was totally stunning.

“You could feel a palpable excitement among all the girls and it is lovely to be a part of a project which inspires young girls to get excited about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) concepts.

“The teams’ mentors noted that the girls, in designing the hovercrafts, were discussing the science and maths involved before applying what they had learned.

“We look forward to next year’s workshop and welcoming even more schools and girls to take part.”

BBC Look North presenter Cathy Killick spoke about how much she enjoyed re-visiting her old school to see the challenge take place.

She said:

“This is a fantastic and worthwhile initiative which I hope has encouraged the girls to consider future studies in the field of engineering.

“The atmosphere in the sports hall was truly electric, and all of the teams deserve a big congratulations for getting their hovercrafts up and running.”

SES senior regional planner  Hadeil Miller and girls from The Mount School
SES senior regional planner Hadeil Miller and girls from The Mount School

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