Wigan Youth Set To Lead 3D Printing Race

newSchool children in Wigan & Leigh with special learning needs, will become the first in the country to computer design and build their own race karts using new 3D printing and digital manufacturing technologies to boost their career prospects. This pioneering project is courtesy of Wigan Council’s Deal For Communities which works with community groups to help children and young people in the borough get the best start in life.

The Deal has awarded £10k of Community Investment Start Up Funding to a social enterprise in Atherton called The Blair Project so it can pilot its innovative ProtoGP Schools Kart Challenge with a total of 12 pupils, who will form two race teams.

The Blair Project is a social enterprise which uses motorsport as a tool to engage and enthuse young people to pursue jobs or apprenticeships in science, technology, engineering and maths. This is commonly referred to as STEM. Newbridge Learning Community in Platt Bridge is one of the schools chosen to take part in the pilot.

In addition to learning digital manufacture and design skills, the teams will also get to test and race their karts at Three Sisters Racing Circuit in Ashton-in-Makerfield, supported by student mechanics and engineers from Wigan & Leigh College and Fix It UK. The pupils will receive locally relevant careers information, guidance and advice to help them progress into employment, apprenticeships or further education.

The focus of the pilot is to unlock the hidden talents and potential of children and young people who have special educational needs or learning disabilities or who are at risk of under-achievement, and help them overcome the challenges they face in entering –or preparing to enter- the local labour market.

It’s the first time that a 3D printed kart will be made in the UK, so this is history in the making. The first kart prototype has been designed by former Jaguar Land Rover engineer, Steve Cox. The pilot will run for 12 weeks and each team will be mentored by a local business. It will also include opportunities for local people to train as volunteer race marshalls.

This pioneering STEM education pilot is a collaboration between The Blair Project, Wigan & Leigh College, Fix It UK 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. Evidence compiled by the Local Government Association shows that this type of targeted locally co-ordinated intervention has the potential to reduce youth unemployment by 20% in 3 years.

Nile Henry, founder and CEO of The Blair Project said “We specialise in making learning fun and uplifting. New technologies like 3D printing make it easy for anyone regardless of age or ability to join in and get involve.

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 computer design, coding and data analysis. Others may be good at manufacturing, technical problem solving or that they’re natural born leaders and managers.

ProtoGP will support all children and young people to develop the skills, confidence and abilities to become the employees, employers and entrepreneurs of the future. We want to play our part in making a better more prosperous Wigan where no one is left behind”.

Alison McKenzie-Folan, Deputy Chief Executive – Customer Transformation at Wigan Council, said: “Creating opportunities for young people is one of the key strands of The Deal so we are delighted to support this fantastic project, which will benefit participants by giving them valuable skills to take forward to their working lives.”

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.