An Engineering Workshop at Knight’s Templar School

The trial workshop day had finally come, after months of pouring over content and youtube videos on how to make a wind turbine. We were conducting the trial workshop in the Knight’s Templar School, about 1.5 hours from central London in a town called Baldock, but the school’s name was the least of our apprehensions that day! We were prepared to see students whizzing around and unsure of their interest in engineering, but we were pleasantly surprised to find impeccably dressed students waiting for our instructions on wind turbines.

A lot of people have a narrow, stereotypical image of what an engineer looks like, which no doubt forms a barrier to engaging with engineering and contributes to the wider shortage of engineers from a range of diverse background; which is why young curious minds of all capabilities need to see the whole exciting field of engineering.

So what did the students think engineers do?

“Draw an engineer”

As expected, a good number of their current images of engineers were male and with a helmet – reflecting cultural idea that women aren’t and can’t engage in engineering, despite being a huge and varying field and which needs to change to address the challenges facing the engineering profession.

Josh and Anna introduced the workshop and talked a bit about what and where engineering is in 2018. After, Yashvini and Adam gave the students the necessary scientific information to inspire them and enable them to tackle their hands on task which was to build their own wind turbine from plastic bottles.

Given the football fever in summer 2018, we held a ‘Wind World Cup’ in which each student individually created plastic bottle wind blades. It was intense: they had to create a functional wind blade from plastic bottles in under 30 minutes to be tested on the mini-motors.  A lot of them looked like this:

 

 

 

From each group of 5-6 students, the bottle blade which produced the most voltage after being subjected to wind from a fan was taken to the next stage to have the winner among all 4 teams. The excitement was palpable from their cheers when the winning team was announced. For comments about the workshop from the winning team click here.

Hopefully, our trial workshop inspired the students to ask more and more questions and to solve big problems that humanity is currently facing.

 

What students had to say:

“The most valuable part of the workshop for me was learning about how an engineer was different from the stereotype”

“Best workshop I’ve done!”

“I enjoyed the hands on learning”

 

Going into the trial workshop, we were really keen to inspire the students about engineering and the experience taught us how it will be best to do that in future workshops. We found that they greatly enjoyed the hands on task of building the wind turbine.

Shorter bouts of lecture-style teaching interspersed with related practical activities retained their attention and engagement more than the longer sections. It was lovely to see some of the students who began the session more nervously grow in confidence as they were encouraged to try and make mistakes and try again during the workshop. I am excited to translate what we learned at Knights Templar School into the design of our future DIY Renewables workshops.’

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