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Innovation Ben inspiring future inventors

Inspiring the designers and engineers of tomorrow has long been one of our major goals at UTC Reading, and now a lifelong friendship between our very own Principal Jonathan Nicholls and inventor Ben Edmonds looks set to develop this even further.

Inspiring the designers and engineers of tomorrow has long been one of our major goals at UTC Reading, and now a lifelong friendship between our very own Principal Jonathan Nicholls and inventor Ben Edmonds looks set to develop this even further.

Ben, who is currently a senior design manager at Dyson, runs a hugely popular Inventor Club for children aged 7-14 both online and in schools and colleges, including another ALET college, UTC Swindon. And we’re delighted to announce he is bringing Inventor Club to UTC Reading as an after-school activity, where he will run three 90-minute sessions on a Thursday evening from 4:15pm.

Inventor Club came about around four years ago when Ben realised how under resourced primary schools were for delivering D&T so decided to provide something for his three daughters.

“I put a Facebook post up about what sort of design and engineering content I would be teaching them and within three weeks I had 300 families show an interest in also doing that with me,” he says. “So I started Inventor Club in my living room, and we grew so big I reached out to UTC Swindon (through my friendship with Jon), and we set up an after-school club.”

“Inventor Club is all about problem solving,” he explains. “More often than not it’s not really about the challenge, it’s about the thought process behind it. We do anything from imagining we are elderly people needing to pick up objects off the floor to how we might remove broken fuel cells from a fusion reactor to making hydraulically operated diggers.


“The core of everything we do is about being able to spot problems, figure out opportunities within those problems and then find lots of way of solving those problems before being able to build and test those things to understand how they might progress. All of that is applicable for whether they go into design and engineering or whatever they do in their later life.”

 


There’s an obvious fit with what Ben is trying to achieve – empowering young people with the skills and abilities to become tomorrow’s innovators and problem solvers – and what we’re striving for here at UTC Reading.

“I’ve found a happy home teaching after school at the UTCs, they’ve welcomed me with open arms,” says Ben. “It’s mutually beneficial - I’m literally bringing their potential future students through the door every single week. The kids get a flavour of what a UTC education could be like, and through me a flavour of what design and engineering looks like. And I’m getting them early enough that they could start to think ‘actually I could see a career here’.”

As well as the after-school club, Ben will begin teaching UTC Reading students in a series of enrichment sessions from September.

“I’ll be teaching entrepreneurial skills – how to turn ideas into small businesses and how to work through the process that we use at Dyson – going from a blank sheet of paper to working with prototypes and concepts, to the product in people’s hands, setting up the business and all the social media that goes with it,” he explains.

“To me the people that came out of industry were always the most interesting because they had real stories to share, so as much as possible I try to stay relevant to the kids. I tell them: ‘today at Dyson we did this’ and I think that helps put the learning in context.”



Ben is really happy that his path is converging in education with his childhood friend Principal Jon.

“I’ve known Jon forever; we’ve been best friends our entire lives. Jon actually set out to be a mechanic in a Formula One team, and as he got closer to that he found he had a huge aptitude for the education side of it, and ironically, I’ve done a similar thing – I always wanted to be an inventor and a product designer for Dyson and the closer I got to that, I then discovered I also had an aptitude for passing on my knowledge to kids. So we’ve kind of both done these two different paths where they’ve gone full circle and now we’re both educating children and we’re getting to do stuff together.”

The thing Ben and Jon clearly share is a desire to empower kids with the skills they need to become the innovators of tomorrow.

“We don’t know what the future looks, particularly right now. We’ve just been through the most mental year of our lives, certainly of a generation. We need to get kids ready for an uncertain future and to do that they need skills and abilities to be able to land in any situation and be useful, be productive, be team players and be able to solve problems, or they won’t cope.”

“But the opportunities for these kids to change the world is massive.”

Inventor Club runs at UTC Reading on a Thursday evening from 4:15pm.


To find out more about Inventor Club visit https://innovationben.com/
or visit his 'What goes on at Inventor Club' video on his YouTube

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