Navacad WO1 Mark Harris with Dumbarton Academy pupils during the STEM visit.

By Gavin Carr

PUPILS from Dumbarton Academy were given some expert help and advice on Friday, November 1, when the Royal Navy assisted them with a new Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) initiative.

The Academy is one of four Secondaries in West Dunbartonshire who are participating in “SUBS in Schools”, a programme where students have the opportunity to learn about complex engineering systems while building a Remotely Operated Vehicle.

A total of 15 High Schools throughout Scotland are taking part and Royal Navy experts will eventually visit them all – including Vale of Leven Academy, Clydebank High School and Kilpatrick School – over the coming weeks.

But first-up was Dumbarton Academy.  Royal Navy personnel from nearby HM Naval Base Clyde visited the school to look over the construction of their ROV and provide some advice about buoyancy, hydrodynamics and submarine design.

In the SUBS in Schools challenge the vehicle needs to complete a series of underwater tests, including a speed challenge, object retrieval and an obstacle course.  The programme invites school teams to compete for the SUBS in Schools Scottish Champions’ title, with the students’ work being judged by a panel of industry experts.

Warrant Officer 1 Mark Harris, STEM Engagement Co-ordinator, said: “Dumbarton Academy is the first Secondary we have visited since the SUBS in Schools launch back in June this year.  Each of the schools have been given a kit to help them build their Remote Operated Vehicle and we will be visiting them all to provide help and advice.

“It is fantastic to meet so many young people who are enthused about STEM subjects; we are really impressed by their level of knowledge and the work they are putting into designing and constructing their vehicle.”

Alongside the practical work of building the vehicle, students need to document their work, prepare a presentation and share their engineering knowledge with the judging panel.  This cross-curricular initiative is designed to inspire a passion for STEM and marine engineering, with the programme managed in partnership with ESP, a Stirling-based company which is a collaboration of Scotland’s colleges and industry partners established to promote STEM.

Rebecca Hay, a teacher at Dumbarton Academy, said:  “The team have had a great time so far in the competition.  Not only have the young people – and myself – learned lots, but we’ve had fun doing it too.  We would like to thank Mark for visiting us.”

As a lead supporter, the Royal Navy supports the SUBS in Schools programme to raise awareness of maritime engineering through participation in a competitive design, build and test competition.  STEM engagement in education is part of a UK-wide initiative to address shortfalls in critical skill areas and it hopes to encourage young people to engage.



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