5-minute briefing: Tomorrow's Engineers EEP Robotics Challenge

Jun 1, 2018

LEGO robots inspiring STEM careers

5 Minute Briefing - Erika Smallridge

Product Development Manager, Erika Smallridge, tells us how LEGO robots are helping to get young people interested in STEM careers.

What is the Tomorrow’s Engineers EEP Robotics Challenge?
It’s a curriculum-linked programme that sees students (11-14s) working together in teams to solve real-world engineering, technology and computing challenges. Student teams across the country learn how to build, program and control autonomous LEGO robots to complete a series of short, exciting aviation missions using LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Education EV3 sets.

What role does the Robotics Challenge play in inspiring the next generation of engineers?
The Robotics Challenge allows young people to be able to connect their education with potential careers in engineering with a futuristic twist. The Robotics Challenge allows young people to find out more and think about areas of robotics engineering, artificial intelligence, automation, design engineering and programming. Areas of engineering like these are progressing very quickly, with robots becoming more accepted in our daily lives and in many industries around the globe.

What do participants get out of it?
The Challenge gives young people of all backgrounds a chance to work with like-minded people, do something fun and hands-on, whilst developing new knowledge and employability skills. Teachers say some of the additional skills young people develop include teamworking, communication, research and problem-solving skills. All great skills for later in life. The Challenge has also allowed teachers to develop their own skills in robotics and programming, with some deciding to enhance their learning through a Masters in robotics! The Challenge allows teachers to work interdepartmentally across the STEM curriculum, which may not be possible otherwise.

How can they use what they’ve learnt once the Challenge is finished?
The Robotics Challenge is a great stepping stone to First LEGO League, an international challenge where student teams design solutions for real world problems and build a mission-solving robot. Other teams use what they have learnt to support the next Robotics Challenge cohort in their school and continue to improve their own skills in robotics. Teams can also enter their projects into The Big Bang Competition and compete against other talented young engineers.

How many students/schools are involved in the Robotics Challenge each year?
We have built up the Robotics Challenge over the last three years to work with 400 secondary schools and approximately 20,000 young people. Each year we recruit around 100 new schools to take part and we will be working with around 10,000 young people in 2018/19.

Lots of partners and volunteers support the Challenge, what do they do?
Our amazing volunteers tend to work in engineering or other STEM industries. They want to give something back to the community through engaging and inspiring young people to consider STEM careers in the future. We are attracting more female volunteers, which is great as we can then inspire more girls to consider STEM careers. Volunteers can get involved with a school taking part in the challenge or support as a judge at one of the 25 regional robotics challenge competition heats held around the UK between February and March each year.

We are supported by Helsington Foundation and other employers, including the Royal Air Force. We also work with the Royal Academy of Engineering, STEM Learning, the IET and with support from our 25 host venues to make the Robotics Challenge as exciting and inspiring for all participants as it can be.

What do you like best about working on the Robotics Challenge?
I really like the feedback that I receive from teachers and volunteers about first-hand successes they have experienced when working with individual young people or a great team. Is it delightful when I hear that a young person has been supported to overcome a personal challenge and achieve something that makes them feel proud.

What’s on the horizon?
We’re very happy to say that the Robotics Challenge will continue for at least a further three years and has many opportunities to develop. We will continue to work with the Helsington Foundation and the Royal Air Force and look forward to welcoming more supporters over the next phase.


The Tomorrow’s Engineers EEP Robotics Challenge is led by EngineeringUK and Helsington Foundation, in partnership with the RAF. If you would like to support the Robotics Challenge as a partner or a volunteer working with a student team or if you know a school who would be interested in taking part, see www.tomorrowsengineers.org.uk/robotics for more information. School application deadline: 10 July 2018.

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