Over 50 Year 10 students from across the Midlands visited Loughborough University in July for an inspiring residential focused on supporting young women to study STEM subjects.

The event, hosted by the School and College Liaison team, saw students attend a variety of academic talks and workshops that aimed to spark their interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM).

This is the fifth year the University has held a ‘Year 10 Athena STEM’ residential and all of the events have been supported by the Ford Motor Company Fund, the philanthropic arm of Ford Motor Company, working with their international grant-making partner GlobalGiving.

This year’s four-day course saw pupils learn about the application of physics to build their own paper wind turbines, using engineering to build and race solar cars as well as building sustainable recycling solutions and more.

They used the information they gained to develop a proposal for a sustainable island community for the future, and on the final day, they presented their ideas to a team of judges from Ford and our own visiting member, Dr Jo Jennings as part of a friendly competition.

During their visit, the girls stayed in the halls of residence on campus and also took part in a range of activities to give them a flavour of what life might be like at a university, including a campus scavenger hunt, UV Zumba and a ‘BBQ and Film’ night.

The free-to-attend residential is open to schools from all over the UK and this year students represented:

Vandyke Upper School, Bedfordshire
Barr Beacon School, Birmingham
Priory Academy, Lincolnshire
Landau Forte College, Derbyshire
Derby Moor Academy, Derbyshire
Hinckley Academy, Leicestershire
Castle Rock School, Leicestershire
Avanti Fields School, Leicestershire
Bluecoat Aspley Academy, Nottinghamshire
Marie Shaw, School and College Liaison Manager commented: “It was an amazing experience for students to really immerse themselves in student life on campus, only made possible through the continued support from the Ford Fund.

“As always, it was incredible to see students develop throughout the course of the week, growing in confidence and forming new friendships. We were blown away by the students’ research, ideas and creativity displayed through their projects. We hope we have inspired the students and made them think about what STEM subjects they might like to study in the future.”

Suzanne Fargeot, a Ford Engineer and Panel Member added: “It was a real pleasure to see how young minds are enthusiastic and open to STEM subjects.”

As well as developing their interest in STEM, the initiative also helped the students develop a range of key skills that are critical for their future, such as team-working, problem-solving, analytical and presentational skills.

Vrishti, a student who took part from Avanti Fields School in Leicester shared this about her experience: “One thing I feel proud of is competing against bright girls from across the country and winning the competition. A skill I developed further is the ability to work in a team and ensure everyone’s ideas are included. I would say the Athena STEM is truly an unforgettable experience and I would recommend this to young women in STEM.”

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