Imagine a ‘smart bowl’. It has integrated scales and a smartphone app so you can track the nutritional value of the food you’re eating. Sounds brilliant doesn’t it? Well, this was the brainchild of a group of work experience students who recently came to our Cambridge Technology Centre as part of a two-week internship.
With less than one in 10 students leaving secondary school with an A-Level in maths and physics, it's clear the UK has a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills deficit. And with demand growing for graduates of these subjects, failing to meet these requirements may restrict the country’s future economic growth.
We established our technology and innovation programme five years ago to inspire the next generation of innovators and engineers. Together with our Raspberry Pi competition – which encourages teams of primary and secondary school students from across the UK to design innovative solutions to pressing societal issues – we’re helping bridge the gap between the skills shortage and growing demand.
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Over the two-week placement, we set seven 14-16 year olds the challenge to develop a product with the theme ‘make the house help you’. They liaised with an internal client to capture the brief, brainstorm ideas, create design concepts, develop an app and build a prototype. We also guided the students on how to manage a budget, give an effective presentation and use 3D modelling software and 3D printers. They then presented the concept back to the client, their teachers and some of our experts.
It was fantastic to witness the enthusiasm with which they showed off their ‘smart bowl’. Everyone was inspired by their creativity and passion. But don’t just take my word for it. Here’s what Max Jackson, from Comberton Village College, had to say: “I’ve really enjoyed making things with a function and seeing what it’d be like doing consulting as a job. I’m finding it useful to see whether I want to go into practical or more theoretical work. I want to be a software engineer and really like that I wouldn’t be restricted to one team at PA Consulting Group, but able to work across the business.”
Clearly, Max and his fellow interns are destined to become the scientists, technologists, inventors and entrepreneurs of tomorrow. I for one will rest soundly tonight knowing that the future is in their capable hands. Unfortunately though, I may have to think twice before consuming that bowl of ice cream!