Summer holidays – time for fun and preparing for Big Bang

Paul Jackson, CEO, EngineeringUK

If you’re looking for something to do with your kids over the summer, EngineeringUK has some great ideas, says its CEO Paul Jackson.

While it’s important for school children to recharge their batteries during the long summer holiday, it’s also an opportunity to continue to learn and to apply knowledge in different ways. Days out and trips to science museums and discovery centres are real favourites. Seeing how things work and trying things out for themselves challenges young people and fires their imagination.

At the end of July, Engineering Open House Day gave the traditional day trip an extra dimension offering visitors an insight into the engineering at places such as ITV, the Royal Opera House and The National Space Centre.

"What you may not realise is that over the summer many young people will be working on new (or refining existing) science and engineering projects for entry into the competitions at The Big Bang Fair."

As the final weeks of the school year drew to a close, we witnessed some incredible engineering developments and achievements. Apple Pay took the high street by storm and never-before-seen images of Pluto were transmitted to earth, joyfully greeted by space scientists the world over.

At the same time, hundreds of school children across the country were showcasing their amazing science and engineering projects to more than 40,000 visitors at Big Bang Near Me Fairs. From toothbrushes designed to save toddlers’ teeth from decay, to 3D printed water purification devices, to recommendations for health care and emergency workers and survivors in the event of a zombie apocalypse, these future scientists and engineers had applied their classroom learning to come up with innovative solutions to (mostly) real-world problems.

There are countless opportunities to highlight the world of engineering to young people and to give them the chance to put their skills to the test. What you may not realise is that over the summer many young people will be working on new (or refining existing) science and engineering projects for entry into the competitions at The Big Bang Fair. We first discover the many fascinating projects that young people have been working on at the heats I mentioned held at the summer’s Big Bang Near Me Fairs. The most impressive of those have made it through to the national finals at The Big Bang Fair in March, while any who missed out have the opportunity to further develop and resubmit their projects.

If you’re unfamiliar with the competition you should know that it’s open to 11-18 year olds and recognises excellence in science, technology, engineering and maths. If you know of any young people that might be interested in taking part, it is still possible to enter the competition online via a written or filmed entry. The young people, as individuals or as part of teams, make it to the national finals showcase their 200 or so projects to over 70,000 visitors, with senior winners named the UK Young Scientist and UK Young Engineer of the Year. While these winners may grab the headlines and the breakfast TV sofa slot, there is great talent and excellent project work on show across the age categories. 

For her project, 11 year old Sky Ballantyne took inspiration from watching a dad teaching his young child to ride a bike in the local park. Seeing how both child and adult struggled she created a harness to address the problem. The Crikey Bikey project, which was developed with her sister, was the winner in the engineering/technology stream of the junior category this year and the harness is now commercially available.

This could be the summer of inspiration for a budding young engineer near you and if the lure of lazy days, trips and the great British climate is too strong, it’s worth noting that online entries are open until Halloween!

Paul Jackson is CEO, EngineeringUK -