A LIVELY event returned to Basingstoke this week with the aim of showing teenagers the huge career possibilities that are on offer in the world of science and technology.
It was the third time the award-winning TeenTech has taken place at The Hampshire Court Hotel, in Chineham, and 300 pupils from 30 Hampshire schools came to Basingstoke for an exciting interactive day, organised by education charity Basingstoke Consortium.
The event aimed to change the perceptions of STEM – science, technology, engineering and maths – careers among pupils and their teachers.
Leading the day was former Tomorrow’s World presenter Maggie Philbin, who co-founded TeenTech to bring teenagers together with engineers, scientists and technologists, who are all keen to help pupils and schools understand what is needed in the modern workplace.
The venue was split into three zones. In the Innovation Zone pupils were asked to design an app, while in the Challenge Zone, they tested their ingenuity and creativity in a series of hands-on challenges.
One, organised by Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE), tasked teams to build a raft propelled by a hand-held fan and race it, while National Grid challenged pupils with a robots ball game.
In the Insight Zone, there were opportunities to take part in mini challenges run by companies including Air Products, Blatchford and De La Rue.
Lisa Martin-Whatley, communication manager for banknote printers De La Rue, explained the complex security features found on banknotes, by using an app on iPads, created by the Bank of England.
Referring to the pupils, she said: “I was really surprised by how engaged they were.”
Ever-enthusiastic Maggie, who is back on television presenting BBC’s Bang Goes the Theory science programme, said: “We want students to understand what’s happening under their noses here with companies like Vitacress, Laleham Healthcare, and Fujitsu, and meet the real-life people who work for them.”
Maggie hopes the event will give pupils an idea of how they could eventually work for companies like those represented at TeenTech.
She said: “When they learn of fantastic apprenticeship schemes, they and their parents might think again about whether the university route is absolutely what they want.”
She added: “It’s all about inspiring the kids, getting them to take the next step. It’s also important to get the teachers seeing that the world of science and technology is fast changing.
“Students have got to have the right kind of mindset to be able to deal with a world where they are going to have perhaps 13 different jobs, where the job they are going to do doesn’t exist yet.”
Fort Hill Community School pupil Kaylee Tarrant, who will be choosing her GCSE options next year, had ideas of being a hairdresser before attending TeenTech.
“This event has opened my eyes to other possibilities,” said the 13-year-old, who was impressed with the Air Products liquid nitrogen demonstration.
Robert May’s School pupil Rory O’Ceallaigh, 13, added: “This has shown us different career paths that we can take.”
Sony Europe product marketing manager Andy Hotten hoped pupils left TeenTech with a more realistic image of what an engineer does.
He said: “Engineers aren’t all in white coats like Dr Emmett Brown from the film Back to the Future.
“What we are promoting is to show that Sony is far more than PlayStations, TVs and mobile phones.
“From our plant in Basingstoke, we design a lot of play and broadcast products and every picture coming from the World Cup in Brazil is all through Sony equipment.”