More than 1200 young people have enjoyed a valuable hands-on experience of science and technology that could shape their future careers. The Big Bang at Discovery Park, Sandwich, attracted students from dozens of secondary schools across the county. Organised by Education Business Partnership Kent, the ambitious event was backed by the Government and big-name businesses such as BAE Systems, Cummins Power Generation, Discovery Park and Pfizer.
It aimed to inspire young people to look to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) as great career options. There has been concern that the UK may fall behind other countries if more people are not attracted to STEM subjects.
Anne McNulty, EBPKent chief executive, said: “These young people will be entering a different economy. We expect them to lead the charge so today is about pushing them forward, empowering them to make decisions.” Big Bang – part of East Kent Skills Fest - gave young people an exciting insight into what they can offer.
They tried their hand at a helicopter flight simulator designed and made by BAE Systems, Rochester, and found out what it’s like to steer a high-speed skeleton in the Winter Olympics, courtesy of Bromley Technologies.
A robot, exercise bicycles and a Doctor Who-style Tardis were among the many attractions that kept the youngsters busy.
Victoria Roots, 27, a graduate systems engineer with BAE Systems, said: “You don’t have to be interested in maths or science to come into an engineering career.” She wanted more girls to look at the option. “We try to make it more female friendly. You don’t have to get your hands dirty. A lot of it is computer-based.”
Lucia Hoyle, 13, from Broadstairs, said after successfully “landing” the helicopter. “I hadn’t really thought of this as a career but I enjoyed the experience, although it was quite hard.”
Tetrad Discovery, based at Discovery Park, was founded by a former student at Hartsdown Academy, Margate. Dominique Westbrook was fascinated by science and joined Pfizer when she was 16. She co-founded the chemical research business with her husband Simon after the pharmaceutical giant scaled down its operations at Sandwich. She showed students, including those from Hartsdown, how penicillin was made. “Science needs to be portrayed in schools as a viable career option,” she said. “I have huge passion for this kind of thing.”
Kelly Holden-Smith, deputy head of Aylesford School, brought 25 Year 9 students with her. “They got a lot out of it. It’s been really well organised and it’s nice to hear such a wide range of speakers. The kids really enjoyed it.”
Mark Dance, Kent County Council Cabinet member for Economic Development, added: “This is exactly what we are aspiring to do. Anne involves businesses and knows what they want.”
Paul Barber, managing director of Discovery Park, now home to 1,400 jobs and dozens of hi-tech companies, was delighted to host the event. “Hopefully the kids who get inspired by coming here will want to work here one day,” he said.
Anne McNulty, Kent EBP