Colnbrook's Lakeside Energy from Waste, near Slough, has an ongoing educational facility, and it recently welcomed five local schools when it hosted an event managed by the Engineering Development Trust. The event, which included tours of the award-winning Energy from Waste facility, was designed to encourage Year 8/9 students to consider a range of career opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Among those taking part was Neil Grundon, Deputy Chairman of Grundon Waste Management, a joint venture partner with Viridor in the Lakeside plant. Talking to pupils, Neil – who is part of the third generation of the Grundon family to be actively involved in the business – and who has five daughters said: "When I WhatsApped all my daughters and asked them what they had learned at school about science – they all said "nothing". However, the eldest two have jobs which mean they use science every day – and they hadn't even noticed."
After lunch, the visitors heard from Johanna Wilson, Head of Talent and Learning at Viridor, about the significance of STEM subjects to both UK and worldwide businesses. Jo said: "The resource management industry keeps the lights on and the water clean, sustains the planet and offers new ways of doing things. Understanding STEM subjects also helps with new developments such as robotics.
"Companies like Viridor, Grundon and Lakeside offer job opportunities in engineering and maintenance, business development, human resources and new technologies – at entry levels including apprentices and graduates."
The students were then split into groups – so all of them could take part in recycling games and tour the site. The recycling games used practical experience to demonstrate why it is so important to put the right stuff in the right bin to maximise recycling. The reactions to the site tour included "amazing, thorough, fantabulous" and "I never knew science and engineering could be this exciting."
After lunch came the group engineering challenge, where each school had to buy building materials (dry spaghetti and jelly babies) and construct the tallest tower they could. The winning tower, with a height of around 35 cm, was built by the five students from Trevelyan Middle School. Their teacher, Emma Hayes said: "This was a tremendous opportunity for all our students to understand how, by working as a team, they could share a challenge between them – and build the highest tower from the five competing schools. The site tour, the recycling game and the team competition also started to introduce the idea that STEM subjects form the basis of understanding many of the everyday challenges of daily life."
Grundon and Lakeside are now providing mentors for all the schools during a 12 week programme. Over that time, pupils will concentrate on one of two projects. Working with Grundon mentors, Magna Carta College, Trevelyan and Upton Court Grammar School will focus on the 'Business of Recycling', while Beechwood and Holyport College will work with Lakeside mentors on an 'Energy and Your School' project.
In January, all five schools will returned to Lakeside, where their projects – including presentations and displays – will be judged by a panel of independent professionals.
Danny Coulston, Operations Director of LKS, says: "The entire training day was very helpful to both our mentors and the students. It was exciting to hear all the students talking so positively about what they had learned – and what they were hoping to learn – as they move towards a wider understanding of how STEM subjects can change not only their daily lives, but also offer very real career and job opportunities."