The importance of cutting-edge technology in modern sport has been highlighted by a group of Walthamstow school children in a unique engineering challenge.

Members of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Club at Kelmscott School battled it out in teams to see who had made the best performing scale-model sled, based on technology used in bob skeleton – a sport which combines both athletic skill and cutting-edge technology.

Based on a teaching and learning resource created by the Royal Academy of Engineering and supported by BAE Systems and the STEM Club members were able to answer the big question: ‘Athlete or Machine? Which is more important in the bob skeleton event?’

After testing each sled for distance and accuracy, the Years 8 and 9 students (12-13) came down on the side of engineering, with three of the six teams stating the machine was the most important aspect in the sport with the remainder believing the athlete and machine were of equal importance.

The winners of the competition were Team Challenger, made up of Sharmin Begun, Fatima Arif and Anisha Cassanova, who impressed the judges from BAE Systems with their knowledge of the sport, including key factors such as weight, ergonomics, friction and materials.

The Engineering Engagement Project is a national initiative led by the Academy to help school pupils become involved in STEM subjects. ‘Athlete or Machine?’ has been designed for all schools and is one of 15 resources available to download from  STEM teaching resources

Kelmscott’s STEM club leader Adrian Stannard said: “The competition was a fitting end to a lot of hard work by members of the club. It was fantastic for them to put all their hard work into practice and to compete in front of a number of professional engineers from BAE Systems and the Royal Academy of Engineering.

“I really hope this inspires the pupils to go on to consider a career in science or engineering.”

Matthew Harrison, Director of Education at the Academy said: “Using the bob skeleton as a fun context for learning helps students see how science, maths and engineering can be used in a practical way. It is vital for national prosperity that more students see STEM subjects as a path to interesting and rewarding technical careers.

“This resource helps schools promote science and maths to their pupils and we are grateful to both BAE Systems for all their time and support getting this programme up and running.”                                     

Notes for editors

  1. The Royal Academy of Engineering Founded in 1976, The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship – comprising the UK’s most eminent engineers – provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain’s engineering community.
  2. Kelmscott School is a typical inner London secondary comprehensive school. The school has approximately 900 pupils aged 11–16, and has specialist status in humanities with business and enterprise. Kelmscott School serves an ethnically diverse community, with the largest group of students being of Asian Pakistani heritage. Three in every five students speak a first language other than English.
  3. BAE Systems is a global defence and security company with approximately 100,000 employees worldwide. The company delivers a full range of products and services for air, land and naval forces, as well as advanced electronics, security, information technology solutions and customer support services.

For more information please contact

Ed Holmes at The Royal Academy of Engineering
020 7766 0655