The Big Bang UK Young Scientists and Engineers Fair is the largest celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) for young people in the UK.
Held at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham in March, this annual event attracted around 70,000 visitors over four days. As a long-term supporter of the event, the IET was among 200 exhibitors promoting the benefits of engineering as a career path and each day of the show, six student members from Aston University volunteered to help out on the stand as IET ambassadors. Seven weeks prior to the Big Bang Fair, the students had been set the challenge of designing exhibits for the stand. These eye-catching creations needed to be interactive, inspiring and – possibly most importantly – built to survive the enthusiastic, hands-on attention of tens of thousands of children that visited the stand.
The final exhibits included a Twitter-enabled LED display cube, an interactive wall, various musical and LED education tools designed to engage visitors, and a much-admired laser harp. Designing these provided a very rich learning experience. The students had to grapple with the intricacies of teamwork, component ordering, budgets, prototyping and marketing. They even had to think about how to ship the items safely to the event. Students are some of the best ambassadors for the engineering community at this type of event, partly because they are closer in terms of age and background to the target audience and partly because of their raw enthusiasm for engineering and technology. “I found the whole experience amazing; the whole day was a blast,” says Aston student Sean Gladwish. “I would recommend anyone to go to next year’s event – and if you get the chance to be a part of the Big Bang team just get on it as fast as you can.”
Collaborative activities such as the contribution from Aston to the Big Bang Fair, sponsors and event hosts for FIRST LEGO League and IET Faraday Challenge Day events are a great way for the IET and its partners to work together, to reach out to young people and their parents and teachers. By working together, we can coordinate efforts and messages and get better impact from our combined resources. It enables young people and their influencers to engage with real engineers but it also enables the engineers and students to promote their organisation and work. They develop their soft skills, including gaining valuable experience of communicating to non-engineering audiences and delivering services to a demanding and challenging public.
Should any IET Academic or Corporate Partners wish to discuss how they can work with the IET on its schools’ activities please get in touch with Gareth James at firstname.lastname@example.org.