Six teams representing schools from across Northern Ireland took to the River Lagan in cardboard boats, which they had engineered as part of W5’s Ingenious Maritime Engineering for the Future programme, culminating in a Cardboard Regatta.
Funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Ingenious Award Scheme, Maritime Engineering for the Future aimed to inspire public engagement with engineering projects and provide opportunities for engineers to interact with the community.
The programme began in November 2022 at W5 where the engineers underwent public engagement training. Following this, they were partnered with local schools and embarked on a series of workshops with the students, exploring fundamental engineering concepts and developing their engineering knowledge. Guided by industry mentors, the school teams put their learning into practice by researching, designing, and constructing a cardboard boat to race against their peers on the River Lagan.
The six school teams, alongside their mentor engineers and respective companies, travelled to W5 LIFE (Learning Innovation For Everyone) to participate in the programme’s showcase event. After months of theory and practical workshops, the teams presented innovative cardboard boat designs and communicated their engineering expertise to a panel of judges (Graham Knowles, Institute of Marine Engineering, Science & Technology; Ian Duncan, Institute of Marine Engineering, Science & Technology; Andrew Hunter, Survitec).
Also in attendance at the showcase were; the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), who also facilitated workshops in the participating schools to communicate the importance of water safety; the Belfast Harbour Police, who engaged with students on how they can stay safe both in and out of the water; and NI Water, who attended with their Water Bus - a double decker bus that acts as a mobile educational unit highlighting issues such as water conservation.
The culmination of the programme took place on Friday 23 June 2023, with the Cardboard Regatta, when the teams ventured into uncharted waters in their cardboard boats, engaging in thrilling races against their fellow participants. Six cardboard trophies were up for grabs, along with two water resource boxes provided by the Royal Academy of Engineering Belfast Hub.
W5's Ingenious Maritime Engineering Programme not only showcased the impressive abilities of students but also highlighted the invaluable role of engineering in shaping our society. By fostering creativity, collaboration, and a passion for engineering, this initiative provided an exceptional platform for young minds to explore their potential and build a brighter future.
Emma Boyd, learning and engagement officer at W5, said: “One of the aims of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Ingenious Maritime Challenge and the Cardboard Regatta was to show the impact that engineers have on our everyday lives. We wanted to showcase what they do in their job roles to help inspire the next generation of innovators and engineers. Young people were paired with local industry experts, providing practical access to role models and highlighting careers that they may consider in years to come. At W5, we believe that it is really important to offer young people opportunities to take what they have learnt in the classroom and apply it to real-world situations by getting involved in STEM projects and engaging in hands-on activities. Most importantly these activities need to be relevant and fun.”
Gillian Gregg, head of regional engagement at the Royal Academy of Engineering, said: “We were delighted to support W5’s Cardboard Regatta through the Royal Academy of Engineering’s award scheme, Ingenious. We are committed to engaging school students with STEM subjects and the Cardboard Regatta was a programme that brought together students with engineering experts over the course of the academic year. We aim to inspire public engagement with engineering projects, motivate engineers to share their expertise and provide opportunities for engineers to engage with the wider public. These aims were at the heart of W5’s Cardboard Regatta, which was displayed beautifully through the final event where teachers, engineers and the public came together to support their local school teams.”