A STEM education programme which uses motorsport to enthuse and inspire pupils to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and digital industries has been given the Royal seal of approval by Prince Harry during his recent visit to Wigan.

It was Prince Harry’s first visit to Wigan when he came to Three Sisters Racing Circuit to attend the first day of testing of 3D printed karts made by pupils competing in the ProtoGP Schools Kart Challenge pilot. Teams from Bedford High School in Leigh and Newbridge Learning Community in Platt Bridge got to computer design and build their own race karts using 3D printing and digital manufacturing technologies.

The ProtoGP Challenge is the brainchild of The Blair Project, whose founder and CEO is 20 year old Nile Henry, an IT professional from Atherton.

This pilot project aims to unlock the hidden talents of young people who are at risk of under achievement as they prepare to enter the local labour market. In addition to learning digital manufacture and design skills, the teams will receive relevant careers information and guidance to help them progress into employment or apprenticeships.

This is the first time a 3D printed kart has been made and raced in the UK. Following testing, the karts went on display at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester on 6th July as part of the Great Science Share event for European City of Science.

This pioneering project is a collaboration between The Blair Project, Wigan & Leigh College and 3D printing technologists Ultimaker, who have brought together an Open Source community of innovators and enthusiasts for the rapid prototyping of the UK’s first ever 3D printed karts.

Nile Henry, founder and CEO of The Blair Project said “ We specialise in making learning fun and uplifting. We want every child to discover what they are good at, and then provide the right nurturing environment for the seeds of their talents to grow. Some will discover they’re good at coding and programming, others may be good at designing, technical problem solving or they’re natural born leaders and managers.

Digital manufacturing and design skills are going to be essential for the workforce of tomorrow. ProtoGP will develop the skills and confidence of these young people to help them transition into further education apprenticeships or jobs, and build brighter futures.

We are also excited by this collaboration with a forward thinking company like Ultimaker, which will allow us to tap into the reservoir of knowledge within their Open Source community to make this happen. There is a real buzz and excitement from everyone involved and we can’t wait to get started.”

Paul Croft , Director of Ultimaker GB said: ‘This is an exciting collaboration that fits perfectly with the values of our CREATE Education Project.  What better way to develop STEM skills than to build something as exhilarating as a race kart?  We can’t wait to see what innovative ideas come to fruition.’’

The 3D printed race karts will go on display at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester in July as part of a special schools event for European City of Science. The Blair Project plans to roll out ProtoGP into other schools in Wigan, and the North West region in the autumn.