Calum Healy - Principal Teacher at St James’ Primary Renfrew said:
The project began with Dr Patricia Munoz de Escalona (Partner at Glasgow Caledonian University) and her students proposing a project in which a problem must be solved - the Olympic GB luge team need a luge starting ramp! Can pupils across Renfrewshire create the perfect design?
After a two-year spell of missed opportunities in the school setting due to COVID-19 restrictions, pupil engagement for the STEM opportunity was at an all-time high and from the offset, a ‘let’s try it and see’ attitude was encouraged. After all, without a little risk-taking and experimentation, many of the technological advancements that have occurred in the last couple of decades would not be possible.
To help us complete the project, we innovatively worked in partnership with Glasgow Caledonian University, the Royal Navy and five other local Renfrewshire primary schools. Pupils were guided throughout the process by a combination of digital and in-person workshops with the Royal Navy and students from Glasgow Caledonian University. In these sessions, pupils were challenged with related experiments that took children on a journey to understand how science is done and what factors the luge engineers need to consider during the design process. For example, welding, construction, coding and electronics. These workshops motivated students and deepened their understanding, as they knew that the skills they acquired could be utilised immediately in the project. The ability to apply their learning to new tasks in the future will bode well for them when they enter the world of work.
At every stage of the project, pupils and our STEM partners used Twitter and Google Classrooms to regularly share updates and learning experiences. As a result of their home learning during COVID-19, pupils were very acquainted with these online learning platforms. Pupils used this familiarity to share their successes or difficulties and used suggestions and results for solutions to their problems. Additionally, it allowed each school to showcase their projects as well as interact with and receive instant recognition for their work from the wider STEM community. From the interactions, it quickly became clear to the pupils that they could learn from not only their teachers and our STEM partners, but other pupils from the participating local primary schools.
The luge project has been a great success in St James’ Primary (Renfrew). It has resulted in pupils who are now better equipped to thrive in a team-oriented environment, able to solve problems by using their critical thinking skills, and able to apply what they have learned to a variety of scenarios.
David Rigmand – Deputy Head Teacher at Todholm Primary School and project lead said:
The six schools involved in this unique and engaging project are all winners as they have collaborated with Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU), the Royal Navy, and Olympic athletes to create a new luge starting ramp for athletes to train with in the UK.
An ongoing partnership made possible by the Royal Society's Partnership Grants scheme, the opportunities have gone from strength to strength as schools have worked with further education and STEM outreach experts to collaborate on this innovative project. Learners have completed multiple thought-provoking investigations linked to properties of materials, aerodynamics, and fitness. Virtual and chocolate welding was a real highlight as learners replicated the process of combining materials to manufacture the luge ramp. The schools have the brilliant opportunity to attend GCU this June, at an event organised by Dr Patricia Munoz de Escalona (STEM partner lead) for the reveal of the luge ramp to the Royal Navy and the luge athletes.
David Grant – Class teacher at Bargarran Primary School said:
Our Luge project began with virtual meetings with a range of university students and members of the Royal Navy. As the project developed, the experiences afforded to the class expanded into areas of STEM previously untapped as a school. One of the most memorable experiences was learning the skill of welding using a ‘virtual welding’ machine and chocolate to create sound structures. This increased the pupils’ exposure to skills for life and work and they enjoyed the level of competition involved. Across the duration of the project the pupils have enjoyed learning about a range of STEM areas (engineering structures, aerodynamics and sports science) and this has further cultivated a culture of intrigue and curiosity throughout many aspects of their learning. As one of their final challenges, the class created a podcast episode wherein they expressed their enjoyment in the activities and shared aspects of learning from across the project.