Future engineers rise to the challenge

Aspiring young Design and Technology Students from across Cornwall descended on Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose to compete in a prestigious Engineering Challenge competition.

Merlin Mk 2 training squadron, 824 NAS, paid host to the “Lockheed Martin Schools Engineering Challenge” which has been designed to inspire year 9 students who hope to follow careers in air engineering.

Organised by STEM – Works, a group set up to promote, Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, (STEM). The competition allows students to plan, design and builds scale models that resolve a complex "mission” set to challenge them and based on real life operations that Naval Air Engineers have experienced. 

Simon Kettle from STEM-Works promotes technology related careers and was on hand to brief students and show them what fun can be had with engineering. “It’s important for them to see the practical applications to design and engineering solutions. Planning, communicating and building these models as a team are all important lessons to learn. 

"Holding a competition in this environment, surrounded by Merlin Helicopters and Naval Air engineering you cannot help them be inspired."

I’ve been really impressed by some of the solutions the kids have come up with

Leading Air Technician Robert Hewson

Giving an initial brief about Naval Aviation and the Fleet Air Arm, Chief Petty Officer Rob Pitt from 824 NAS set out the ground rules for the "Mission”. He also had a team of naval air engineers to assist the running of the event and offering encouragement to the groups as well as acting as suitable role models throughout.

“I’ve been really impressed by some of the solutions the kids have come up with,” said Leading Air Technician Robert Hewson, himself not much older than the students taking part. 

“I never had a chance to do anything like this while I was at School. It’s impressive to see the way they’ve attacked the mission and how they’re determined to find the solution.”

"The students and teachers also had an exclusive tour of the squadron and the Merlin Training Facilities at Culdrose, which gave them a valuable insight into such a unique dedicated training capability for both engineers and aircrew.

"But there could be only one winner and after five hours the results were declared. Following some close adjudication by the judges, Penair School from Truro came out on top. ‘Lift a downed Merlin Helicopter in a desert environment’. 

"Successfully using the light weight structures available to build an efficient model and complete the "mission challenge."

 “We tried quite a few different ideas initially, but we were really focused on trying to get the most out of very little,” said Peter Holmes, team captain for Penair School. 

“We found that our tri-pod configuration worked really well, taking extra time at the beginning to plan and design really paid off.”