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16 April, 2019 - 09:23 By Kate Sweeney

Thousands of students benefiting from Cambridge LaunchPad activities

Cambridge LaunchPad at Marshalls

A growing number of Cambridge companies are joining forces to tackle the skills shortages in our region. Started by Marshall of Cambridge, Cambridge LaunchPad has expanded to include Arm, TTP, Schlumberger and another 20 organisations.

A recent event held at Schlumberger for prospective partners has resulted in a further eight companies applying to join the programme.

Cambridge LaunchPad offers students aged 8-18 the chance to take part in hands-on activity days at the host company, working with early career employees and learning how science, technology, engineering and maths are used in business activities.

By taking part, students gain a deeper understanding and enthusiasm for these subjects, making them more likely to continue at GCSE, A level and in further education and employment. This is critical to ensure the region’s fast-growing businesses have the supply of skills they need and that young people have opportunities to fulfil their potential and share more equitably in our prosperity.

In early February, over 400 Year 4 students from Abbey Meadows, Bar Hill, Cherry Hinton, Fen Ditton, Fulbourn, Kings Hedges, Linton Heights primary schools and St Faith’s School took part in ‘STARS’ project days at Marshall of Cambridge. 

Their activities were designed to show different aspects of engineering and ranged from designing and making parachutes to protect a water balloon dropped from a height, working with electrical circuits to power cars and helicopters, building and racing chariots and making structures to protect ‘nuclear waste’ while tackling an obstacle course. 

Rosie Komodromos, Year 4 class teacher at Linton Heights Junior School said: “As a new school to this project we count ourselves really lucky that the children have been able to experience hands on engineering. 

“I have seen so many students flourish with the challenges of the LaunchPad day. Thinking about new ideas to overcome obstacles – it’s been inspiring!”

In addition to the learning and the fun, the students are also competing for a place on the prize trip at the end of term. They work in teams and the judges are looking out for how well they performed on the Cambridge LaunchPad core values of curiosity, creativity and communication.

Cambridge LaunchPad at MarshallsOne of the LaunchPad project leads, Christopher Beale, Electrical/Avionic technician at Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group, said: “It’s fantastic to see young people who may not always excel in the classroom applying themselves and developing skills which they didn’t realise they had. 

“This helps give them confidence to move towards an end goal which they may have thought unachievable in the past. If these students decide to take a career within the STEM sector then fantastic, but if they choose other routes then these skills will help them whatever their career choices.”

Aly Champion from Hills Road Sixth Form College reflected on her experience at a separate Marshall project day saying: “It was really nice to be able to work with real life engineers and actually be able to problem solve with them. 

“The best part was working with the drones and optimisation for an actual product was really interesting as I think it really reflects well on the engineering process.”

At this LaunchPad ‘Scholars’ event for sixth-formers, 30 students from Comberton Sixth Form and Hills Road Sixth Form College were tasked with completing a research project to develop a programmable drone that will carry a 3D printed water pump to extinguish an aircraft fire. 

This enabled the students to learn and understand the product development process, from designing and producing the water pumps to programming the drones. 

On the final day, each team competed to provide the fastest response to the aircraft fire. They were judged on their communication, problem-solving and teamwork skills.

Anne Bailey, co-founder, Form the Future, the social enterprise that manages the programme on behalf of the company partners said: “Cambridge is famous for its ability to form networks and Cambridge LaunchPad is a fantastic example of this. By working together, we are creating a unique programme for skills development that will deliver a more inclusive and resilient economy.”

This year, nearly 7,000 students will benefit from Cambridge LaunchPad activities, across 27 schools – but there are many more schools who are yet to take part. 

Any companies that want to join the programme and inspire school students that STEM is for all should contact Form the Future by emailing Cambridge-launchpad [at] formthefuture.org.uk

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