Highland Schools Come Together to Tackle Academy9’s Biggest Design and Build Challenge

The Academy9 team recently hosted another one of our flagship Apprenticeship Academy events, which saw nearly 40 S2 pupils from both Grantown Grammar and Kingussie High schools come together from three days of STEM learning and team building, which culminated in a mega, bridge building challenge.

Hosted at Grantown Grammar School this year, here’s what we got up to:

Day One

Day one consisted of a quiz on the local areas and the A9 dualling programme, followed by some icebreaker tasks which highlighted some skills that would be needed across the next two days:

  • Testing their ability to learn and develop skills with the BATAK reaction time machine and some juggling.
  • Developing their communication skills in our paired drawing communication challenge.
  • Warming up their creativity with a game of “Two Truths and a Lie”!

Day Two

Day two saw the pupils work in small groups to complete four mini challenges which would set them up with all the knowledge they needed for day three, along with continuing to build their communication, teamworking and problem-solving skills.

Environmental Challenge

This challenge saw pupils learning about protected species that can be found along the A9 corridor, water quality testing and archaeological digs that are all extremely important aspects of consideration before any construction takes place. Through this challenge they learned the importance of safeguarding our natural environment and the cultural heritage that lies beneath.

Routes to Success Challenge

This session highlighted the design challenges that engineers phase during the planning stage of a highway construction project. Pupils had to take into account constraints such as travel time, cost and different ground conditions while planning a route for a new road which would connect two towns. This challenge opens the pupils’ eyes to the number of design possibilities that can exist within a given brief, and that sometimes designs need to be adapted if problems arise throughout the project.

Risky Business Challenge

Health and safety is paramount in construction; we want to make sure everyone goes home safe from their work at the end of each day. Pupils worked together to identify mitigations for risks you could encounter while working on the A9 dually project and saw how quickly they could get dressed in the required Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). We think some of them quite liked their new outfits!

Bridges Challenge

This taught the groups everything they needed to know about constructing a strong bridge, and gave an insight into what can go wrong if teams don’t work effectively together on a bridge building project! Tasked with building a bridge out of only one sheet of paper, pupils worked in small teams to build a bridge that would support more gravel that any other teams bridge upon testing. Creative thinking, team-work and structural design were all challenged in this one.

Day Three

On the third and final day, the skills, knowledge and relationships formed over the prior days were put to the test when the teams worked to pull together a bridge construction project. Each team was given their own brief and landscape on which the project was centred, along with a modest cash budget to spend on building materials for their bridges. Teams assigned job roles based on their observed skill sets; such as project manager, architect and stakeholder engagement manager; and worked together to develop a holistic project build taking into consideration sustainability and social value as well as designing and building the bridge itself.

Teams were presented with unexpected challenges and opportunities that they had to overcome and utilise to stay in budget and deliver upon schedule – all while building a physical model of their bridge at the same time!

Judging and Prizegiving

Parents, carers and other invited guests were attended the final showcase of the projects where teams displayed their hand-made bridge models and presentation materials. The teams were then quizzed by our judges, in line with their project aims, and judged on 5 categories; aesthetics, innovation, strength, sustainability, and teamwork.

The Academy9 team were so impressed by the work put in by all those attending the event and it was wonderful to see both high schools come together and work collaboratively on each task, while developing skills that will help them to succeed in the future and foster new relationships.

A special thanks to Claire McGonigal (Head Teacher) and Ruairidh Ross (Depute Head) from Grantown Grammar School for hosting the event this year and working with the Academy9 team to help inspire the next generation of STEM experts.

We are already looking forward to the next one!

The Academy9 team are always looking to increase the knowledge and confidence of the possible STEM careers within infrastructure. If you would like to see how the Academy9 team could work with you and your learning community, please contact us.

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