An all-female team of apprentices harnessed ‘Girl Power’ to design and install a hot water system capable of running a shower and emerge as the winners of The Big Rig – a low carbon challenge organised by Northampton College.
The girls narrowly beat a team of students studying science, technology, engineering and maths-related subjects in the final of the competition which has formed part of the College’s Igniting The Spark initiative.
The challenge saw teams compete to install a solar powered water system on a large scaffolding platform at the college’s Booth Lane campus.
It consisted of a mixture of practical and theoretical sessions linked to the curriculum, with a strong focus on health and safety. Teams were judged on a range of set criteria including how well they understand and plan the project, economical use of materials, design of a rain water collection system, waste management process and how effective they were as a team.
Paul Nelson, from sponsors Kier, said: “There is a major skills gap in the construction industry and events such as The Big Rig are vital in inspiring the next generation, giving students an opportunity to get hands-on and gain invaluable experience of a replicated workplace environment.
“It’s been fantastic to see the students working as a team to solve problems to the challenges they were presented with. Their work was extremely impressive and it’s great to see the future is in such good shape.”
Hands-on activities enhanced pupils’ problem solving skills and improved communication, team-working and leadership skills.
Amy Ball, a business apprentice who formed a part of the winning team, said: “It was brilliant to take part in The Big Rig, which is unlike anything I’ve ever done before. It made me think about things in a completely different way and has improved my teamwork, communication and leadership skills. I’ve learnt a lot and made new friends along the way.”
Pat Brennan-Barrett, principal of Northampton College, said: “The Big Rig was an opportunity for young people to showcase their own ideas and ways of working. We want to create a future workforce capable of thinking for themselves, solving problems quickly and efficiently and using technology to create innovative new ways of doing business.”
The Big Rig follows on from two previous ‘Igniting The Spark’ workshops held in conjunction with the UK Space academy, which has seen students from seven Northamptonshire schools take a voyage of discovery to unearth the secrets of the solar system and find out more about the science of space.
Northampton College has recently revealed its proposal for a £4.75million Advanced Construction Engineering (ACE) Centre at Booth Lane, which will help train the next generation of construction industry professionals including builders, plumbers, carpenters and decorators and teach pioneering new techniques aimed at equipping future workers with the very latest skills.
Alongside courses which focus on craft skills there will also be courses at Level 3 for those looking for supervisory, technician or management careers in the sector, such as in Civil Engineering, Building Services Engineering, or Project Management.
Building work on the centre, which will include a revolutionary ‘Digital Lab’ featuring a Virtual Reality classroom, 3D printing facilities and industry-standard workshop equipment, is scheduled to get underway next summer.
Northampton College has underlined its commitment to the environment by ‘going green’ and stopping the sale of single-use plastic bottles of water in its canteen.
The move has seen students heavily involved in the design and sale of new reusable college-branded water bottles – helping to cut down on plastic waste and further reduce the college’s carbon footprint.
The bottles, which are being sold for £2, replace individual bottles of water previously sold for 70p, helping students save money at the same time as protecting the environment.
Pat Brennan-Barrett, principal of Northampton College, said: “As part of our continued drive to minimise plastic waste and reduce our carbon footprint, we are introducing reusable college-branded water bottles for both students and staff.
“We want to raise awareness of the issue of single use plastic and show our students that we all have a role to play in helping to protect our planet. If all of us make a small but significant change it can add up into something far bigger.”
Every year 400 million tonnes of plastic is produced and 40 per cent of it is single-use, meaning it is only used once before being thrown away.
More than eight million tonnes of plastic enters the world's seas each year, with most of that coming from land. However, the majority of man-made plastics are not bio-degradable, meaning they will not rot.
For sea birds and large marine creatures, the danger comes from being entangled in plastic bags and other debris, or mistaking plastic for food. Larger pieces of plastic can also damage the digestive systems of animals and can be potentially fatal.
The reusable bottles are being sold in The Lookout, Northampton College’s canteen area, with business students involved in selling the bottles.
Students from Northampton College have collected money to help raise awareness of Down’s Syndrome and raise funds to build a specialist playground for children with severe learning disabilities.
The Progression Diploma students raised £130 at the Lower Mounts campus and will put the cash towards East Hunsbury Primary School’s ‘Project Playground’ – an ambitious scheme to upgrade their current outdoor play space that is expected to cost £50,000.
Throughout the day, all Essential Skills classes had starter activities to raise awareness and staff and students wore colourful and odd socks to help raise awareness of the condition.
Andrew Griffiths, Essential Skills teacher at Northampton College, said: “The students really embraced the chance to have some fun and help raise money for a project which has the potential to change dozens of lives for the better. I’d like to thank everyone that contributed to the collection and I’m looking forward to seeing the project become a reality.”
Staff at East Hunsbury Primary School want to create an inspiring and inclusive play space for pupils with severe learning difficulties and their mainstream peers. The school has a 40 place specialist unit for children with severe learning difficulties.
Outdoor learning forms an essential part of the curriculum at the school and enables children to play together, build relationships, take risks and gain a better understanding of the world.
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