Inspiring the Next Generation of Engineers in Tipperary

Inspiring the Next Generation of Engineers in Tipperary

SL Controls engineers recently completed an engineering education programme with 5th-class primary school pupils at Youghalarra National School in Nenagh, County Tipperary, Ireland.

SL Controls Systems Architect Volker Winhausen and Senior Validation Engineer Andrew Ryan took part in the programme which is run by STEAM. STEAM is an organisation that partners with industry to inspire children in science, technology, engineering, arts, and maths with interactive presentations and practical activities.

Increased Confidence

Andrew and Volker guided the primary school pupils through the 10-week programme and said it was great to see confidence levels increase.

Andrew said: “There was a huge difference in response between the first class we had with the children and the last class. In the last class, confidence levels were much higher, and the children were delighted to get their final certificates. It was great to see their confidence grow, and they were not afraid to throw their hands up to give answers to questions. The whole experience was good for us, good for the school, and good for the kids as well.”

Volker agreed: “The kids were a bit reserved at the start but afterward when they got to know us, they warmed up, asked questions, and gave answers. It was good learning for us as well.

“I didn’t know what to expect at the start. What I really like about STEAM is the nice change between the PowerPoint presentations and the practical exercises. I liked the enthusiasm of some of the kids, and you can see they get excited about engineering. But there is the other side too, like when we asked who had built a paper plane before. Only about six from the class of 14 had built a paper plane. I found that surprising.

“Some of the kids got hooked on a topic and even tried things over the weekend at home. One guy built a catapult that must have taken him all weekend. We got the most enjoyment from the electronics session, where the children used Play-Doh to build circuits. I didn’t even know you could do that with Play-Doh, but the children got their light bulbs all lighting up which was really cool.”

From Germany to Tipperary

Andrew added: “With some of the practical exercises, you could see the kids trying to find the right solution, and you could see lightbulbs going off in their heads. They definitely were taking on board the high-level messages.

“At one point, Volker went back to his own primary school days to explain a point about current flows. So, something taught in Germany was brought back to a class in Tipperary, but that’s how you get things across. The children could understand it completely with that example from Volker.”

Andrew said the experience was worthwhile and he recommended it to other engineers.

He said: “My advice is to do it, as it’s a great experience. At the start, no one knows what they are getting into – the kids, the teacher, ourselves. But in the end, everyone gets something out of it, especially the children. My advice is to do it if you get the opportunity.”