Pupils inspired to set course for a career in STEM after schools sailing event

Date 18.06.2019

School pupils could be setting sail for a career in STEM after attending a two-day event at Rutland Water that was co-organised by the University of Northampton’s Pathways team.

The University’s NCOP/Pathways/School Engagement team works with schools in the region to inspire pupils to consider Higher Education and the careers it can lead to, with the event at Rutland Water aimed at getting them interested in the science behind sailing.

The event for Year 9 and 10 pupils from Northamptonshire and Leicestershire was run in partnership with the 1851 Trust, which is the official charity of INEOS Team UK, the British sailing team that will compete in the 2021 America’s Cup.

The 36 pupils who attended the event were from Beaumont Leys School and Sir Jonathan North Community College, Leicester, Corby Technical School, Rushden Academy and Wigston Academy.

They investigated the science and cutting-edge technology behind the incredible America’s Cup foiling sailing boats that race at speeds of up to 60mph. Taking part in a series of hands-on demonstrations, they then applied the theory of how a sail or wing works to design and make their own turbines to harness the power of the wind, storing the energy they generated to power their own micro race boat.

Rutland Water event

Rutland Water event

Rutland Water event Rutland Water event Rutland Water event Rutland Water event

Having practically researched hull shapes, structures and modern materials, they designed their own micro boat to race down a 4m length of guttering. Every team rose to the challenge and were able to successfully race their boat down the gutter, with many recording some very quick times.

To bring the science to life, each student also took to the water in a dinghy to experience sailing for themselves. In small teams, they were all able to steer and control the boat and sails, bringing together what they had learned on shore. To top it all off, students got to experience the thrill of sailing fast boats, with a trip in a catamaran alongside an instructor.

Built in as part of this two-day event was the opportunity for the students to obtain the British Science Association Bronze Crest award. This is a nationally recognised scheme for pupil-led investigative science project work and is achievable through attending workshops and taking part in experiments alongside the pupils’ successful creation of investigation reports and presenting of work to peers.

Sam McKay, NCOP Pathways Co-ordinator at the University, said: “This unique experience combining hands on STEM learning and sailing really helped open pupils’ eyes to the exciting opportunities available to them, both in their education and career choices. It also helped in promoting active and healthy lifestyles in areas that many may not have previously considered or had the opportunity to experience.”