Over the past few months, we have been following two SL Controls engineers as they delivered a STEAM educational initiative to a 5th class in Strandhill National School. The 10-week programme was devised by STEAM, an organisation that aims to inspire children about science, technology, engineering, the arts, and maths.
STEAM partners with companies like SL Controls to deliver the programme. The SL Controls engineers who took part were Fiona Chung and Philip Nicholson. At the end of the 10-week programme, we asked Fiona to reflect on her experience, starting with explaining what happened in the last lesson.
Fiona said: “I was sad the programme was finishing up, but the last day was really fantastic. The kids created and presented projects, and we were so proud of them. They were all cheering for each other, and they were enthusiastic about the projects they created. Each one of them got to present their own bit as well.”
The children had a choice of five challenges for the final project:
- Drop an egg from height without it breaking
- Create a paper table to hold as much weight as possible
- Make a spaghetti bridge that could hold weight
- Make a catapult out of rubber bands and lollipop sticks
- Create a Play-Do robot circuit
Fiona said: “The children only had two hours to complete their project, so they did really well. When we gave them the choices, there was a clamouring to do the egg project. The team that did it tried a parachute at first but realised it wasn’t working as the egg was too heavy. They then made a contraption using a box with straws sticking out and cotton wool inside. The straws took most of the impact, so the contraption worked.
“That’s just one example, though – all the projects were excellent. The kids blew me away every time I was there as they are so smart and very creative. They come up with their own ideas and solutions, even though the materials are very limited. They would ask me questions, and they had loads of ideas that they weren’t afraid to try out. They were also competitive, but within the teams, they worked very well together.
“The children enjoyed the programme and got a lot out of it. I received good feedback from the school and from parents as well.”
Bringing the Magic Back
Fiona went on to explain what she got from the experience: “For me, I found the experience to be very rewarding. It brought the joy of engineering back. Sometimes in day-to-day engineering work, you lose sight of the magic of engineering principles. This experience brought that magic back for me, and I would definitely welcome the opportunity to do it again.”
Philip Nicholson said the enthusiasm from the children was infectious: “This experience has shown me just how much we could achieve by offering children in primary schools more opportunities to learn about engineering. They loved each of the topics and the final project, and they learned along the way.
“What was also rewarding for me was seeing them think outside the box to solve problems and overcome challenges. The whole experience was rewarding, in fact, and I would recommend it to anyone.”
Shauna Ryan, Director of People and Culture at SL Controls, and Deirdre Loughlin, Quality & Marketing Executive, both attended the final lesson to watch the children present their projects.
Deirdre said: “I thought it was brilliant and the projects were brilliant. Each child had a chance to speak, and they spoke so well to describe their projects. The kids were buzzing.”
Shauna said: “What struck me was the fact the children were so confident and respectful. They showed great teamwork too. Even when one of them was struggling with the presentation, the boy next to him jumped in to help, not take over, but help.
“It was also obvious they had really engaged with the programme and had built a relationship with Philip and Fiona.
“It was great to see that Fiona and Philip got so much out of the experience as well.
“Developing an interest in engineering at all ages is something we are passionate about here at SL Controls, so we will absolutely be looking to get involved in similar initiatives again.”