‘Tunnelworks’, a new, interactive, set of educational materials for the Thames Tideway Tunnel, launched today by Thames Water, aims to inspire a new generation of engineers.
The materials are part of a wider drive by the company to help alleviate a chronic shortage of engineers in the UK, expected to reach 600,000 by 2017.
Thames Water hopes the online classroom resources for the ‘Supersewer’ will inspire secondary school pupils to study STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects after GCSE and go on to pursue careers in engineering.
Online lessons explore the science and maths behind the design, construction and operation of the proposed Thames Tideway Tunnel. This approach, informed directly by consultation with teachers, aims to link learning in the classroom with the real-life challenges faced by engineers on the project.
The Thames Tideway Tunnel is needed to help to tackle increasingly frequent discharges of untreated sewage into the tidal River Thames from London’s overstretched, Victorian sewerage system. These discharges currently occur once a week on average and can be triggered by as little as 2mm of rainfall.
Generating the equivalent of 19,000 employment years, the project is expected to create 9,000 jobs before its anticipated completion in 2022-23.
Phil Stride, Head of the Thames Tideway Tunnel at Thames Water, said: “As well as the huge environmental benefits of the project, the potential social and economic benefits for future generations are enormous.
“As a chartered engineer I am passionate about promoting the Thames Tideway Tunnel to inspire young people to see the benefits the profession provides to society.
“To thrive economically the country urgently needs students who are talented in science and maths. We are keen to encourage young Londoners to train as engineers and play their part in delivering this vital infrastructure project, which is essential for the well being of our capital city.”
The programme is particularly aiming to inspire groups under-represented in engineering, including women and ethnic minorities. Currently just 22 per cent of entrants into university engineering courses are female.
Consultation with teachers along the tunnel route indicated they wanted the resources to showcase role models for their students. In response to this the Tunnelworks resources feature video clips of young engineers and other technical experts working on the project, who set pupils challenges to solve.
Suliaman Zaheer a trainee engineer on the project, who features in the lesson videos, said: “As someone who has benefited from this project’s ambition to help upskill young engineers and provide them with job opportunities, it is a great feeling to be able to give something back.
“I hope that Tunnelworks will highlight to young people the range of careers available in the field of engineering and inspire them to follow me and work on one of the country’s most exciting infrastructure projects.”
Also appearing in the lesson videos is Sarah Dye, lead engineer on the central section of the Thames Tideway Tunnel. She said: “It’s great to be able to give young people a sense of what life is like as an engineer and the challenges facing us in designing and constructing the project.
“As a female engineer, I think it’s really important that the industry helps to enthuse young women in what is a very exciting and rewarding career.”
Among the subjects covered in the science lessons are forces, pressure, wavelengths and electrical circuits. Maths topics include averages, area and volume, Pythagoras Theorem and bearings.
Recognising the need for teachers to have flexibility, the resources give students the chance to explore particular topics in more depth.
The maths and science lessons for national curriculum Key Stages 3 and 4 (ages 11-16) are available free of charge from www.tunnelworks.co.uk. Interactive white board presentations accompany a series of worksheets and teachers’ notes.
There are also a series of CREST project ideas for use in science- or after-school clubs. CREST is Britain’s largest national award scheme for project work in the STEM subjects. CREST awards are endorsed by UCAS, the university admissions service, for inclusion in students’ personal statements.
In addition to classroom resources, Thames Tideway Tunnel employees will invest more than 350 hours volunteering in schools in the capital over the next academic year. The project’s STEM Ambassador programme will see 15 project staff each give up to three days a year to help with the delivery of science and engineering related activities across the five London boroughs most impacted by construction work for the project (Hammersmith and Fulham, Wandsworth, Southwark, Newham and Greenwich).
Schools requesting support from the project’s STEM Ambassadors can do so through the Tunnelworks site. Ambassadors are available for a range of activities including ‘day in the life of’ talks, careers events and expert input on engineering-related lessons.
A second phase of resources for A-Level and BTEC Engineering students will be available from Spring 2013.