Wednesday 24th June 2015
22 June 2015 – Thirteen schools from across Hampshire, Dorset and the Isle of Wight competed against each other in the QinetiQ Schools’ Powerboat Challenge on Friday, 19 June.
Each team designed and built its own miniature powerboat, which was put to the test in an obstacle course in QinetiQ’s ocean basin facility at Haslar, Gosport. This year, for the first time, participants also had the opportunity to show off their straight-line speed in a head-to-head drag race.
A panel of judges from QinetiQ and the Royal Navy selected winners in categories such as innovation, teamwork and endeavour, with senior maritime industry leaders presenting the teams with their prizes. Caroline Dinenage, MP for Gosport, was also on-hand to watch the action and lend her support.
Now in its sixth year, the QinetiQ Schools’ Powerboat Challenge provides pupils aged between 12 and 15 with hands-on experience of using science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) within the maritime industry. The teams are coached during the design process by members of QinetiQ’s Maritime team, who visit the schools and share their technical expertise with the youngsters.
Josh Campbell’s participation in a similar challenge four years ago led to his current role as a maritime communications specialist at QinetiQ. He explained: “While I was an apprentice with the Ministry of Defence, I took part in the Industry Powerboat Challenge for older entrants. We won the ‘team award’ for remaining enthusiastic despite our boat sinking.
“The experience inspired me to return to QinetiQ a year later for a six-month seconded placement at Haslar as part of my apprenticeship. I really enjoyed it, so after finishing my course and starting full-time work I successfully applied for my current role.
“I have since helped to organise the Schools’ Powerboat Challenge and seen from the other side how it similarly inspires other young people. I have worked with teams of lively kids who have surprised everyone with their focus and drive to succeed in pursuit of a common goal. I think it’s vital for young people to experience the amazing things engineering makes possible and the career opportunities it provides.”
Becky Thomas is a Project Engineer at QinetiQ, who joined the company through a graduate scheme and has helped to organize this year’s event. She said: “The challenge helps school pupils to apply the lessons they have learned in class in a fun and rewarding environment. We hope the experience will encourage more young people to consider STEM subjects and future careers in this area. Our vision is to provide opportunities and inspiration for future engineers and scientists, a commitment underlined by our role as a founding member of The 5% Club.”
Caroline Dinenage, local MP for Gosport said, “I was delighted to see the QinetiQ Powerboat Challenge get underway again this year and to talk to the young people involved. I am extremely proud of the students from Bay House School and Brune Park School who participated. It is really important to encourage students to take up STEM subjects and this competition is just the kind of thing that could help spark a lifelong passion for science and engineering.”
Commander Steve Prest, the Royal Navy’s Fleet Robotics Officer, was one of the judges and emphasised the importance of engineering to the Navy, “The Royal Navy is a Service that has been at the forefront of technological innovation for centuries. We rely upon this, along with our people, for our warfighting edge. Generating enthusiasm about STEM subjects in youngsters is vital, not only to provide us with future engineers for the Fleet but also to help populate the highly-skilled industry that we rely upon to equip and support us.”
The 5% Club campaign is a nationwide campaign urging companies across the UK to commit to 5% of their workforce being apprentices, graduates or placement students on a formalised training programme within five years.
Source: QinetiQ Press Office, see Schools take on the Powerboat Challenge for the full press release