Primary school pupils have been given a unique opportunity to use creative engineering tools to learn about marine conservation as part of a project involving Swansea University.
Project SIARC (Sharks Inspiring Action and Research with Communities) aims to inspire future generations to protect the marine environment through interactive sessions with schoolchildren.
Led by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Natural Resources Wales (NRW), the project is co-funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, On the Edge Conservation and The Heritage Fund from Welsh Government.
Based on one of the project's flagship species, the angelshark, Swansea University, ZSL and the wider SIARC team worked with schools in and around Carmarthenshire on this interactive project to help pupils learn about the species through computer-aided design (CAD) and 3D printing.
Pupils from Tavernspite CP School, Llanmiloe School, Nantgaredig School and Abergwili School were the first of 13 primary schools from Carmarthenshire to participate in a workshop led by Swansea University, where they were taught how to create their own designs and objects using specialized 3D printers, installed in their classrooms by the University, as part of a range of Project SIARC learning activities.
Having been introduced to these new engineering tools and building up a great deal of knowledge on the angelshark species, the pupils 3D printed a shark from a laser scan performed by Swansea University.
Each school was then invited to host a display at the National Botanic Gardens of Wales' Great Glasshouse, allowing pupils to speak to the public about the shark species in Wales and present the marine environments they created.
Julianna Bransden, a teacher from Llanmiloe School commented on this fantastic experience for pupils: "The children have thrived. After feeling nervous about talking to the public, they all managed to speak to multiple visitors and told me how much they enjoyed doing so.
"It's been lovely watching those who don't always have the confidence to speak up, or who don't usually push themselves forward, tell others about their work on the angelshark and our marine environment."
Miss Xiaojun Yin, Associate Professor in Civil Engineering at Swansea University’s Faculty of Science and Engineering, said: "It's amazing what the children have created from their ideas, initiatives and imagination, using the skills they've gained through the project.
"Each school has produced something so different, but all are equally impressive in their own way, from interactive computer and physical games to a QR code with links to informative flyers. There's even been a puppet show!"
"The displays have been overwhelmingly successful. The engagement from the children has been fantastic, and they have impressed the public, with not only their knowledge of angelsharks and passion for the Welsh marine environment, but also their fantastic communication skills."
One visitor remarked: "What a wonderful project which amalgamates engineering skills, scientific knowledge, care for the environment and creativity.
"I can see that the children have got a lot out of this!"