To mark the Year of Engineering, the very first schools STEM competition to recycle used petrol go karts and turn them into high powered electric versions is being piloted this summer with five teams from Bolton, Wigan and Lancashire taking part. The teams are made up of young people aged 13 -18 years old.
The fully-electric prototype vehicles will take to the track at Three Sisters Racing Circuit in Wigan on the 17 July (9am to 2pm) to test which is the fastest. Judging will be based on performance, design, energy storage and how well the teams work together to problem solve.
The ProtoEV Challenge is the brainchild of Manchester based tech education specialists The Blair Project and Blackburn College’s Regional Automotive Technology Hub, with funding from Greater Manchester Higher and a range of sponsors and supporters including CAL International who specialize in designing and testing automotive concepts, Carbon Performance, PWHytek, Siemens, Northern Automotive Alliance (NAA), NIS Integrated Engineering, Design Spark and Prof John Perkins former Chief Scientific Adviser. All share a commitment to inspire and enthuse the next generation of technicians and engineers.
Tragedy struck earlier this month when one of the school teams, Fred Longworth High School in Tyldesley had their self build kart stolen. Within hours of a crowdfunding campaign being set up to raise £4k to buy back the kart kit, the Morson Group in collaboration with the Morson Maker Space at The University of Salford stepped in to provide the sponsorship so the team could continue to compete.
Blair Project CEO Nile Henry (22) said “ The project is intended to inspire young people to get excited about science, technology and engineering using the exhilaration of motorsport innovation and design. There is a serious shortage of young people going into tech and engineering in the UK and the current school curriculum is not geared up to address it.
We’re trying to plug that gap, by providing a project-based learning activity that gives young people the hands on, practical experience and life skills that employers want, as well as the inspiration and motivation to pursue well paid careers in engineering and tech that they might otherwise not have thought about.”
The Blair Project, who are members of the Northern Automotive Alliance reached out to fellow members CAL International to provide the technical leadership for ProtoEV. CAL International are a design and development engineering business based in Knowsley, Merseyside who specialise in taking product from concept to production. Following an initial approach CAL saw the immediate value in what the Blair Project where aiming to achieve and released a team of Automotive Engineering Specialists headed by Andy Shilladay (Automotive Director) to support the program. Andy has been involved in motorsport for over 25 years.
Cliff Kirby (CEO CAL International) added, “The Blair Project is a fantastic initiative. The single biggest issue with getting young people into engineering engaging early with the right perception. This does all of those things. Supporting initiatives that bring young people into engineering is absolutely at the core of what CAL International represents. On a daily basis we see in real time the acute skills shortage in the engineering space across our markets”.
Lee Fogg (Technical Director – CAL International) further commented: “It is great to be part of this program. When the Blair Project approached us we were only too happy to get involved. We have a well embedded apprenticeship program here at CAL that we are very proud of. The fit could not be better between our skill set, ethos, and approach”.
According to Engineering UK, the engineering sector needs to employ 203,000 new people per year with the requisite skills. The annual shortfall of engineering graduates and engineering-related apprentices is close to 60,000.
Adrian Adair, Operations Director at Morson International added, “We have several key engineering projects in the North West, not least HS2, and it’s critical that we work to bridge any skills gaps by attracting the best new talent in our region and for young bright minds to take up engineering skills and set them up for future careers right here in the North of England.”
ProtoEV will be scaled up as a Greater Manchester wide championship in 2019 involving up to 20 x schools and colleges, with plans to roll it out into London, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Cardiff, and then export it into the USA the following year as a potential feeder series for Formula E.
Starting in October, teams will get to work alongside Salford University students based in a new driverless laboratory within the Autonomous Vehicle Technology Department to experience designing and building prototype electric and autonomous karts with support from industry partners.
Nile added “ What industry needs are career ready young people who are familiar with new and emerging technologies, and have experience of working creatively at the cutting edge “
The Blair Project has also begun working with international tech partners and gaming specialists in India to develop the ProtoEV E-Learning Platform which will use gamification to teach STEM principles in a way that taps into how young people learn best.
This press release and pictures are available at www.theblairproject.org/gallery