"We've been delighted by the enthusiasm and ideas that have come from the team we sponsored and impressed by the project solutions presented by their competitors."

Brian Williams, Semtech

Inspiring 12-14 year olds about future careers in electronics

Inspiring 12-14 year olds about future careers in electronics

Press Release: Finals of first UKESF-Go4SET challenge held to introduce secondary school students to electronics sector

The University of Bristol yesterday hosted the finals of a pilot initiative to raise awareness of the electronics sector among school pupils aged 12-14 and help reverse the industry-threatening decline in students undertaking electronics courses at university.

Badminton School Team, winners of the Pupils' Choice Award, with its electronic netball bib
Badminton School Team, winners of the Pupils’ Choice Award, with its prototype electronic netball shirt. The shirt uses an arduino platform to activate LEDs and buzzers to signal team colours, captain’s armband and to alert substitutions. The team plans to create a further prototype that a coach can control wirelessly from an iPad.

The inaugural 10-week Go4SET project, developed by the UK Electronics Skills Foundation in partnership with the Engineering Development Trust, saw 10 teams of 6 students from across the South West compete to present their visions and prototypes of future technologies.

Teams were sponsored and mentored by industry partners and the University of Bristol. Proving that electronics plays an important role in our everyday lives, students came up with ideas for technology applications that included teaching, sport, school security and entertainment.

Students were invited to learn about electronics from 50 years ago, investigated the role electronics plays in everyday school life and devised smart electronic solutions to problems identified by their schools before predicting what might be possible 5 years into the future.

Badminton School, Bristol, produced two winning teams receiving the overall winner and pupils’ choice awards for RFID school registration watches and an electronic netball top with a working prototype using an Arduino LilyPad. Lydiard Park Academy, Swindon, won the innonvation award with its ideas for a watch that connects to a smartphone to make calls and check Facebook, emails, other apps.

UKESF Strategic Advisory Board chair and Plastic Logic CEO, Indro Mukerjee, said: “Electronics is an exciting technology that touches and enables every aspect of life. Our industry needs to reach out to students and engage with them to communicate this before they even begin making their GCSE choices. We must ensure this is done in a stimulating and intriguing way; it is not enough to simply give a careers talk at a school.

“The ideas presented yesterday show that this new UKESF-Go4SET project can certainly play a significant role in achieving this. However, further support for the project by employers across the country is necessary to help attract more young talent into the sector.”

Brian Williams, Vice President of product, test and optical applications engineering for Semtech, which sponsored the overall winning team, said: “We were keen to engage with local schools and the ready-made nature of the UKESF project helps us reach out more easily. We’ve been delighted by the enthusiasm and ideas that have come from the team we sponsored and impressed by the project solutions presented by their competitors.”

Gordon Mizner, CEO of EDT: “Our Go4SET scheme has been running for a number of years and we are delighted to partner UKESF with a project relating to the key electronics industry. We’ve found this hands-on project format to be one of the best ways to enthuse young teenagers about engineering, to change misconceptions of the industry and the type of careers available, and at the same time to develop important employability skills.”

Despite UCAS data showing a significant rise in demand for engineering and technology courses since 2002, there was a 29 per cent drop in British applicants to electronics engineering courses between 2002 and 2012. The gender gap is also significant with females typically making up less than 8 per cent (1in 12) of UK applicants.

The Go4SET scheme is designed to raise awareness among younger students in a way that appeals to both males and females. The inaugural UKESF sponsored project saw four mixed teams, four girls-only teams and just two boys-only teams.

The UKESF-Go4SET project will now be rolled out nationally.