The UK’s biggest independent STEM event crowned four major winners last week in a competition that attracted more than 80 pupils keen to get an insight into engineering.
Bishop Vesey’s Grammar School, Great Wyrley Academy, John Taylor High School, and Lawrence Sheriff High School took the prizes at the Design & Make Challenge 2023, the largest one ever held by the Manufacturing Assembly Network (MAN). All the schools, like most of the companies in MAN, are based in the West Midlands.
The Year 10, Year 11 and Year 12 students split up into teams of four to design, test and build an aircraft.
At least some of the school students taking part in an engineering competition in the West Midlands may, so the organisers hope, develop a taste for manufacturing that could lead to a career
Using just a box of simple materials and a selection of hand tools, they had to work together to create a machine that could be launched from a pair of purpose-built air cannons.
Held with WMG at the University of Warwick, the challenge pitted 16 schools against each other to see whose design could go the furthest, with Great Wyrley Academy’s model surpassing the organisers’ expectations by travelling 16 metres to the wall at the end of the test area, earning the school the 'efficiency' title.
John Taylor and Lawrence Sheriff won the ‘manufacturing’ and ‘innovation’ titles for ease of manufacture and the uniqueness of their designs respectively, with Bishop Vesey’s securing the ‘communications’ prize for the way they told the story of the day.
The latter was a real coup after the ambitious pupils managed to secure a mock TV interview with Sky Business Correspondent Paul Kelso as part of their winning entry.
“This was the fourth year of the Design & Make Challenge and our biggest yet – in fact, we more than doubled the size of the event held in 2022,” explained Austin Owens, Managing Director at Grove Design (Pembridge) and Co-Chair of the Manufacturing Assembly Network.
Teams of pupils from 16 schools worked on the design and manufacture of a real-life item in the shape of an aircraft
“We all have a bigger role to play in getting young people excited about possible careers in science and engineering, especially if we are going to achieve what we want to as an industry and take advantage of the new opportunities in reshoring and cleaner mobility.”
He continued: “The MAN Group saw this coming, and this is why we created the event, using our own time and money. We now need the rest of the sector to join us and create more opportunities for young people to engage with engineering.”
“There is an appetite there from young people and the schools to do more, so we have to work on what we are going to provide next.”
Great Wyrley, John Taylor and Lawrence Sheriff each received a 3D Printer as part of their prize package, which was sponsored by 3DPrint UK. These will be taken back to each of the schools and used to develop additive manufacturing skills.
Pupils were able to tap into the expertise of Manufacturing Assembly Network apprentices and WMG engineers during the eight-hour challenge, with the organisers offering the opportunity for school visits, work experience and placements.
There was also a major announcement on the day that 17 apprenticeships are currently available across the seven MAN sub-contract manufacturers and the specialist engineering design agency.
Dr Mark Swift, Director of SME Engagement at WMG at the University of Warwick, concluded:
“We are delighted to work closely with the Manufacturing Assembly Network in their efforts to provide real-world engineering experience to young people.
“It’s important that the manufacturing industry engages with future engineers, to encourage, inspire and lead us into a prosperous future together. This is exactly what the Design and Make Challenge aims to do.”
About the Manufacturing Assembly Network
Formed in 2006, The Manufacturing Assembly Network is made up of Alucast, Brandauer, Grove Design (Pembridge), James Lister & Sons, KimberMills International, Muller Holdings, Nemco and PP Control & Automation.
The seven sub-contract manufacturers and specialist engineering design agency form a unique global collective that works together to share best practice and secure contracts for UK industry.
Together, the group employs over 1000 people, operates across twelve factories and exports to more than 35 different countries.