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Children and the Chocolate Factory

Last week, 206 primary school pupils from six schools across Reading took the chance to visit UTC Reading to take part in the ‘Children and the Chocolate Factory’ challenge event.

The event is designed to inspire careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) through hands-on activities ran by leading industry experts, Thames Water, Kier and Peter Brett Associates (PBA). 

On both Tuesday 20th and Wednesday 21st February, the events kicked off with an introduction to the day, to the partners in the room and the activities they were about to undertake, as well as watch the brilliant ‘Engineering Happiness’ video and asking the pupils what their idea of an engineer was.

The first activity was a team-building ‘Tower of Power’ challenge whereby teams had to work together to build a tower of blocks, without using their hands!  Instead, they had to use their listening, cooperation and negotiation skills to build it using just strings and a hook.

The second challenge was a network challenge called ‘Reservoir to Tap’ which involved the teams designing and building their own network of water pipes to supply the surrounding area, including a hospital, school and housing estate and then testing it using real water.

Liz Banks from Thames Water’s education team said: “We had a brilliant two days meeting over 200 lively children! They all got stuck into the STEM activities with great enthusiasm and demonstrated teamwork, communication and problem solving.  It's these key skills that we want to promote and give pupils the chance to put their classroom learning into practice. The business partners - Thames Water, Kier and PBA - were all very impressed with the children and think we have a few engineers of the future among them!”

Emily Regent, Year 4 Teacher at Gorse Ride School, said: “Our pupils particularly enjoyed making the water system; Liz facilitated this group task brilliantly, by giving them the resources they needed along with some ‘top tips’, without giving the solution away. The children worked co-operatively, remembering the skills they needed to use from the ice breaker activity; listening, leadership and the importance of giving clear instructions.  The children left the workshop feeling accomplished and inquisitive about what they needed to do to become an engineer.”

Rob Gibson, Graduate Engineer at PBA said: “I thought the day was great - a day with a good diverse range of activities that complemented each other well. The children got better and better as they realised they themselves could create novel solutions to the problems. It was great to see them begin to stop and think ‘I can do this’ and throw themselves in - a lot of fun all round.”

The event was designed by experts from Thames Water, Kier and Peter Brett Associates alongside UTC Reading to introduce school pupils to STEM careers. It is thought a skills shortage is looming for many industries which rely on STEM qualifications.

Pupils who took part in the event were from the following schools: St Sebastians, Oxford Road, Gorse Ride, St Anne's, Kidmore End and Caversham Primary. 

  • Active Learning
  • Microsoft
  • Cisco
  • University of Reading
  • Network Rail
  • Peter Brett