Schoolchildren have had their eyes opened to the possibilities of a career in sustainable construction thanks to an innovative industry-backed competition held at Northampton College.

The Big Rig Low Carbon Challenge saw teams from six local secondary schools take part in a contest to see who could install the most effective solar-powered water system on a large purpose-built scaffold platform in the courtyard at Booth Lane.

Teams from Northampton International Academy, The Duston School, Abbeyfield School, Guilsborough Academy and Campion School took part across three days of competition while the college’s own plumbing students took on their ESOL counterparts.

Each team consisted of up to eight 14 and 15-year-old male and female students who were required to design and install the system, setting them up with skills in rainwater harvesting, and producing electricity and hot water in a more eco-friendly way.

Patrick Leavey, deputy principal at Northampton College, said: “This is a full-scale plumbing and electrical system, which the students have to work on from scratch. For the students reaching the end of their secondary school education, it allows them to put the science knowledge into practice. They are being disciplined in health and safety and sticking to the job role they have been assigned – just as they would in the industry.

“We want young people to understand the changing needs of industry, so they aware of the importance of sustainability and the green agenda within construction.

“The Big Rig challenge focuses the minds of these young people, who we know are already tuned into environmental issues. It falls upon us as teachers and educators to enhance their knowledge and skills and help to work towards solutions that can benefit our planet for generations to come.”

The Big Rig is part of the College’s ‘Ignite the Spark’ initiative - an exciting, evolving initiative designed to support the teaching of STEM subjects by delivering an annual programme of events to excite students and inspire them to consider science, construction or engineering careers. 

The challenge has the support of local employers, with Lodge Farm-based MY Fab providing hardhats, goggles and gloves for the students to use and also donating sponsorship for prizes.

Further sponsorship was provided by employers including John Nicholls, Keepmoat Homes and Thorn Electrical.

The next session to be held as part of Northampton College’s Ignite The Spark initiative will be ’Supporting Sustainable Futures’ – taking place at Booth Lane on Monday, 22 April.

Local employers and industry partners will deliver a series of hands-on workshops outlining to 14 and 15-year-old students how they are aiming to drive positive change by embedding net zero goals, green initiatives and sustainable practices into the modern working environment.