Schools set Olympic challenge for future engineers

A new scheme aims at inspiring the next generation of British scientists and engineers by asking schoolchildren to tackle challenges raised by staging the London 2012 Olympics.

Schools taking part in the Stem Challenges, launched at the Olympic Park in east London, will have to focus for one school term on a behind-the-scenes activity that is needed to make London 2012 happen. The Stem scheme - which stands for science, technology, engineering and maths which must be used to tackle the activities - is the first to be launched under the practical learning arm of Get Set, the London 2012 education programme.

Youngsters from Barking Abbey School visited the Olympic Park and met the team building the handball arena as the first Stem Challenge, focusing on construction and set by the Olympic Delivery Authority, was launched. The second challenge, set by London 2012 sponsor Adidas, involves the design of an item of sportswear. The challenges can be completed either in the classroom or as part of an after-school Stem Club.

"If our students weren't excited about taking part in the Stem Challenges before today they certainly are now," Barking Abbey School teacher Alex Brooks said.

"It's been great for them to see the impressive amount of work going on at the Olympic Park and really beneficial for them to make the connection between what's happening here and what they are learning about in class. Hopefully taking part in all this will make them realise that Stem careers are not only important but extremely exciting as well."

Matthew Tosh, Stemnet's Stem Clubs Network Manager, explained that the aim is to get students thinking about the real-life issues faced daily by professionals working behind the scenes on the 2012 project. He said: "The aim is for students to experience Stem skills in practice and understand that science and technology doesn't just happen in the classroom but is a hugely important and enthralling sector to be involved in."

Nick Fuller, London 2012's head of education, said: "When London won the right to host the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, we made a clear promise to use the power of the 2012 Games to inspire young people.

"Through Get Set we are able to inspire young people in the broadest possible sense and today's launch offers practical learning opportunities for young people to get their teeth into a range of real life tasks related to the 2012 Games."

The closing date for schools to submit their entries for the first Stem Challenge is December 11. A series of regional judging rounds and school visits to pick the best entries for the Stem challenges will follow, before nine entries are chosen for the national final in March. A tour of the Olympic Park and a trip to the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland, is the prize for the winning team.

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