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Out of the Blocks - STEMNET Event

Out of the Blocks – Maths and Science Series 2012
London Qualifiers – 30/06/12
A STEMNET Event review by Jairo A Jaramillo
Among the many events and celebrations being held in London this year to mark the Olympic Games, it was a STEMNET event in collaboration with CISCO Systems that really caught my eye for its combination of legacy and efforts to bring STEM subjects to the forefront in young minds.

Having received the customary email informing me of available events from STEMNET themselves, I was intrigued by a challenge that involved schoolchildren preparing and presenting their ideas on how to organise and stage a large scale sporting event within their community.  Students would be in teams of 4-6 presenting in front of three judges for ten minutes, with an accompanying Q&A session to really test their knowledge and preparation.

It was thus that I made my way to Holborn and STEMNET HQ bright and early on a Wednesday morning, eager and curious to see what the young minds of London would be bringing to the table.  We started our day with the Sydney Squadrents from Sydney Russell School in Barking, who presented their proposal to hold a Badminton tournament within the existing sports facilities of their school.  Whilst perhaps underestimating the size of the challenge, the other judges and I were very impressed with the micro-management the Squadrents showed, even considering floor surfaces should drinks spillages occur!  To borrow a construction industry analogy, this was definitely a team of on-site contractors, the guys I would have wanted handling the actual implementation and handover of the sporting event.  An honorary mention also for how bravely they overcame horrendous IT issues, showing great innovation by playing us their short promotional video on one of their smartphones.

Suitably impressed by a good opening, we welcomed the next group, River Academy from Feltham in Middlesex.  It was immediately apparent that this group of students would be approaching the challenge from a different angle, and we were stunned by their excellent presentation skills, beautiful 3D rendering of their proposed Paralympics Triathlon bike track and due consideration to getting the local community involved and how to tackle transport for large spectator numbers.  The Rivers Academy proposal was notable for its emphasis on Materials and the swimsuits that competitors might use – again very encouraging to see young people investigating innovative uses of technology.

The final group was five 11 year olds from Sion Manning RC Girls School in Ladbroke Grove, presenting their idea for a Volleyball tournament to be held at the London ExCel centre.  It was an example of another team that brought something different to the competition.  The ‘Eccentric Einsteins’ (great name) showed real thought in the selection of their sport and incredible maturity in their presentation skills and use of maths and investigative powers.  The judges and I were particularly impressed by their answers to the Q&A session that followed, the ‘Eccentric Einsteins´ describing what they had taken from the experience and how they had developed their teamwork skills.

Once all three teams had presented, the other judges and I were left to tally up our marks and pass them on to the STEMNET Organisers.  Overall it was a great day; I was very heartened by the enthusiasm and ability shown by all three schools.  The challenge of course now is to ensure that these young minds fulfil their potential in whatever careers they choose, however, if they can be convinced to give building services a try, then the UK can be confident in continuing as a world leader in this field for the foreseeable future.  I strongly recommend all those who can to become STEMNET members and help the organisation continue with its admirable efforts.