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By Amy Ball on 10 May 2018

When my manager told me she had volunteered my name to take part in Northampton College’s Big Rig Low Carbon challenge, I actually laughed. My qualification is in Business Administration, where I feel comfortable so I never believed I’d be doing anything like this, but here I was, out of my comfort zone again.

Soon enough, the day came when I donned my hard hat and my hi-vis and joined the all-female Apprentice team as we competed against the STEM team to build a solar powered shower.

As an all-girl team, I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t already written us out of the competition within the first hour. We were amongst physicists, mathematicians and engineers, undoubtedly all intelligent and practical students. I should also add that this was the first time I had ever met the rest of my team, which was concerning to say the least when completing a team challenge. How were we going to gel and work together when we’d only known each other an hour?

It turns out I had nothing to fear. We became fast friends, exceptional teammates and though we had no hope we would actually get through to the final, we only lost to STEM by one point.

This was it – the final was to be a rematch between our two teams. And this time, we were ready.

With our new found friendships, we spent the week leading up to the final strategising in a group chat we had made. We assigned new team roles, discussed the diagrams and assessed our strengths and weaknesses. Were we taking it too seriously? Probably. But my competitive streak definitely came out, and once we realised we actually had a shot at winning the entire challenge instead of just having a bit of fun, we knew we had to give it our best.

It was neck and neck throughout the entire day. Every time we made a breakthrough, the STEM team would make one five minutes later. Every time we had a setback, the STEM team had one soon after. We genuinely didn’t know who had edged it. After a long day, we sat in the Boardroom for the awards presentation, where we found out that we had actually done it. By just five points, our teamwork was the factor that tipped us to win over STEM, which was absolutely incredible as it truly felt like we had come so far since meeting just a week before. Our prize is also amazing, our sponsors Kier have kindly donated tickets for an escape room experience and I genuinely can’t wait to see my lovely new teammates again and give it a go!

I have definitely learned new skills by partaking in The Big Rig. While I don’t think I’ll drop my career in Marketing to be a plumber just yet, I have learned the importance of throwing myself into something totally new, with people I have never met, and embracing each experience that comes my way. I have also realised how vital it is to expose young people to new careers and opportunities in STEM – if we don’t have the chance to try new things through events like The Big Rig, we’ll never know where our passions are, our horizons become narrowed, and the future of STEM industries is threatened.

The Big Rig has definitely been one of the most rewarding experiences I have had as an Apprentice at Northampton College so far.

And to do this as part of an all-girl team? It makes victory even sweeter.

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