Next generation of talent takes on tech challenge

The next generation of budding tech entrepreneurs was put to the test recently with a series of LEGO challenges at an event in Abertillery’s Eden Education Centre.

The Eden Innovation Caerphilly Cluster event, held in collaboration with Careers Wales, Business in the Community Cymru (BITC Cymru) and the Eden Education Centre, saw youngsters from five schools go head-to-head to carry out challenges using LEGO Education robots which they previously designed and built.

The event was the culmination of a series of Business Class competitions, aimed at linking pupils with industry to improve their understanding of the world of work and career choices.

In previous stages, students were asked to build and programme a LEGO robot, which they then had to navigate around a purpose-built course. Five schools from the cluster were then chosen to go compete in the final, including Risca Community Comprehensive, Lewis Girls’ School, St Cenydd Comprehensive, Blackwood Comprehensive, and Bedwas High School.

The teams were also given a budget in LEGO money and had to keep a record of their income and expenditure. Watched by Nick Smith, MP for Blaenau Gwent, and Alun Davies AM, Minister for Lifelong Learning and Welsh Language, they also had to deliver a short presentation to demonstrate their business strategy, the skills they used to accomplish each task, and what they learned from the challenge.

Businesses including IQE, Keepmoat, Lloyds Bank, DS Smith, and Glenside Commercials, helped each group programme their LEGO robot to complete a selection of challenges, including sorting materials for recycling, collecting building materials and carry bags of coins from businesses marked on a map to the bank.

The groups were judged on their design, team work, and presentation, with the team from St Cenydd Comprehensive announced as the overall winners at the end of the day.

Richard Spear, chief executive at Careers Wales, said: “By bringing this cluster of schools together, our aim was to provide pupils with the opportunity to take part in activities which enabled them to develop personal and professional skills.

“The challenges also helped to increase their knowledge of digital literacy and its application to the workplace, by building and programming their own robots, and showcased how STEM subjects can lead to a variety of different careers.

“The mathematical and financial elements of the tasks demonstrated how maths can be used in everyday situations in the workplace, and by working side-to-side and interacting with a range of businesses, pupils had the opportunity to ask them about their sectors and the range career paths available to them.”

Matt Appleby, Director of Business in the Community Cymru, added: “This event reflects what Business Class is all about - bringing practical, real-world experiences to young people and giving pupils of all abilities the opportunity to interact and engage with professionals.

“Each of the students who participated in the competition was given the opportunity to develop many work-related skills, including, teamwork, communication, problem solving, budgeting and creative thinking.

“Working with Careers Wales and organisations like The Eden Centre, we are equipping young people to build successful and fulfilling working lives - providing them with the support, knowledge and practical skills they need to thrive”.

The Business Class programme aims to improve school pupils’ understanding of the world of work and career choices by linking them with businesses for collaboration and engagement opportunities, providing support across four key areas; leadership and governance, curriculum, enterprise and employability and wider issues.

Pete Jones, director of the Eden Education Centre, said: “Preparing today’s students, not just for exams, but for their future careers is critical, we have created bespoke challenges to do just that.

“At the Eden Education Centre, using technology like LEGO Education Mindstorms not only encompass’ digital literacy skills and numerical reasoning, but also helps to develop critical thinking, innovative and entrepreneurial skills, creating great opportunities to inspire and engage young people for tomorrow’s workplace.”