The teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics really matters. And it matters a lot to the Thames Valley economy. The numbers employed across the region and in associated supply chains make employment in these technical disciplines a critical factor on which future growth and prosperity depends
For too many these subjects seem daunting and perhaps only for The Big Bang – The IT Crowd nerds such as us at Peter Brett Associates. Often the rigour associated with these disciplines in schools is contrasted with the freer artistic requirements of other subjects. However as any artist or writer knows, meaningful art depends on discipline, rigour and the pursuit of excellence in every detail; similarly every scientist, technologist and engineer depends on ingenuity and creativity to solve complex and profound problems.
The wider community needs schools and colleges to develop not only the hard skills in young people necessary for commercial enterprise, but also the broader appetite for curious endeavour, to apply science and technology creatively in solving everyday challenges and to understand how individuals work in teams to protect our environment, create infrastructure and buildings, as well as to design the products necessary to sustain and progress human existence.
In 2015 we established the Brett Foundation to support in-curriculum creativity within schools, teaming up with like-minded teachers, educationalists and designers. Locally we have formed partnerships with schools and colleges to support them where we can, bringing a fresh perspective on the curriculum, inspiring young people and introducing them to the ideas that careers in STEM subjects can be rewarding and provide life-long fulfilment.
Our focus is on the secondary school pupils in schools local to our office network. We have 13 offices nationally, and naturally, many of our staff have children at their local schools. We have no shortage of volunteers prepared to support our initiatives.
Teaming up with the engineering department from the University of Cambridge to deliver an authentic engineering and design process through resource kits has stimulated many great outcomes. Bringing real-world problems into classroom design and technology sessions in secondary schools, intended to encourage the next generation of UK designers and engineers, has won industry hearts and minds with its childhood asthma programme of work. Five of the best designs to encourage toddlers to take their medicine were presented by students at the British Paediatric Respiratory Society conference on the June 30 and the winning design is being prototyped for manufacture. New resource kits are being created to address sensor technology, Internet of Things and physical impairment thereby stimulating a connection between science, engineering, empathy and the sense of being a designer for the young students.
The UTC in Reading is another great example of our enthusiasm for a good idea. Alongside other organisations in Reading we have been involved with whole school design projects addressing community issues and harnessing impressive youthful creativity. We have been continually amazed at the application of the UTC students in powering through complex team tasks and generating original outcomes. We have also worked with Prospect School and others across the Thames Valley in supportive roles for ambitious students who want to get on. In some cases helping the students build literal bridges, and in other cases supporting the leap of faith that a career in science and technology is the right one for them.