Local school pupils recently had the chance to learn about sustainability and manufacturing in south Wales at an event hosted at Swansea University.
In July 2023, Swansea University Bay Campus welcomed the Engineering Development Trust (EDT) to deliver the first South Wales Challenger Day workshop on Innovation and Sustainability, funded by Innovate UK.
A total of 80 KS3 students from Llangatwg Community School, Bryn Celynnog School, Ebbw Fawr Learning Community, Olchfa School and Willows High School participated in this inaugural event.
Pupils were joined by industrial representatives from Vale Europe and Tata Steel UK at the Challenger Day, which was also sponsored by the Transforming Foundation Industries Network+ and the SUSTAIN Future Steel Manufacturing Research Hub.
The activities, developed by the Engineering Development Trust, introduced pupils to the foundation industries and manufacturing. Participants were given examples of what these industries produce -and why they are so crucial in south Wales - through a series of fun activities.
Pupils built on their existing knowledge of fossil fuels and how they are impacting climate change through a series of true or false activities, and learned about several of the options local industries are considering to decarbonise their operations.
The event also introduced the concept of the circular economy, by looking at how everyday actions such as repairing and recycling can help reduce carbon emissions. These were then related to how similar activities on a significantly larger scale, such as using recycled scrap material, are being adopted by industry.
In groups, the students designed and built bridges to support an object. Materials for this had to be purchased from a special shop, where both the cost and carbon footprint of each component had to be considered, with the goal of constructing a bridge that was good value and still suitable for its purpose.
Professor Cameron Pleydell-Pearce of Swansea University is the lead for metals on the Transforming Foundation Industries Network+, and director of the SUSTAIN Future Steel Manufacturing Research Hub. He said:
“It’s been an amazing event, having all these school children here to learn more about the foundation industries.
I’ve learnt that you can really engage young people - the potential future leaders for the industry - in sustainability and the role that the foundation industries play in delivering a brighter future for their generation.
The students here today have got really unique, exciting ideas. They’ve been coming up with these really cool ideas, building bridges, considering the benefits of the embodied carbon and how to design them better. You can see that they’ve got creative minds and they’re keen to try and help us solve the climate problem.”
Dr Sarah Connolly from Innovate UK said:
“Innovate UK is working with industry across the UK to build best practice into their organisations. A really key part of that is future skills and talent, bringing the best minds of the next generation in, to instil these good ideas and best practices and change the way that we look at our materials industries.
It’s massively important that we keep some of these skills local in industrial regions across the UK. South Wales is a massive one. It has so much presence across all the foundation industries. Having these skills locally gives us that diverse range of talent that we can pull on to keep these industries thriving and keep the UK fulfilled with all its materials needs.”