The Big Bang Fair – demonstrating just how fun and inspiring a career in engineering can be

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The Big Bang: UK Young Scientists and Engineers Fair took place at London’s ExCel at the end of last week.

Over 25,000 young people together with their teachers, parents and guardians flocked through the doors to experience the excitement and opportunities available through science, technology, engineering and maths.

Exhibitors from across the private, public and voluntary sectors were on hand to enlighten visitors about the role science and engineering plays in our everyday lives. Headline shows included BBC’s Bang Goes the Theory, Sky 1’s Brainiac Live and the Wallace & Gromit ‘World of Invention’.

The Big Bang also plays hosts to the finals of the National Science & Engineering Competition, which is open to 11 to 18 year olds across the UK who have completed a project or activity in any field of science, technology, engineering or maths. Professor Brian Cox, a Royal Society University Research Fellow and presenter of the current ‘Wonders of the Universe’ programme on BBC, handed out the awards. The UK Young Scientist of the Year went to Hannah Eastwood, from Loreto College in Coleraine, whilst the UK Young Engineer of the Year went to Andrew Cowan, from Sutton Grammar School for Boys.

Andrew, who is now a first year electronics student at the University of Southampton, built his Search and Rescue Robot during his A level Systems and Control coursework. This large tracked vehicle, which incorporates a wireless camera and collection of sensors, allows the user to view environmental information from a remote control panel. “I’m really looking forward to representing engineering for young people and I hope my project inspires lots of other people to do the same and pursue a career in engineering,” says Andrew.

The fair, however, comes on the back of quite disturbing research recently undertaken by www.onepoll.com for the Big Bang Fair Group. In January 2011 a sample of 3,000 parents with children aged 4 to 17 were interviewed. The research revealed that although parents want their children to pursue a career in medicine, science and engineering two thirds of them (68%) are holding back from encouraging them to consider these careers because of their own lack of knowledge about these fields.

Further results show that 31% of parents have no idea about the jobs available in these areas and 19% find science and engineering too difficult to comprehend. In response to these findings, The Big Bang warns that this gap in knowledge, which is stopping parents from encouraging their children into highly skilled jobs, could have an overwhelming impact on young people’s aspirations and the future state of the economy.

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As Professor Cox says, “With science and engineering ranking so highly on parents ‘most wanted’ careers list, it is clear they have high hopes for their children. But the research suggests that they need to feel more equipped to help their kids make career decisions. Without this encouragement from parents, we could see the STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] skills gap widen which poses a risk to our country’s competitive edge.”

So, considering that it’s currently the National Science & Engineering Week (11- 20 March 2011) lets all big up engineering…