TechFest Hits the News with Lighthouse Building Workshop at Secondary Schools

In Press and Journal Energy Voice - August 2018 


Kincorth 4 compressed

Young budding engineers from Aberdeen City schools put their skills to the test to design a lighthouse prototype, in a TechFest challenge inspired by an historic event at Aberdeen Harbour.  

Around 300 S2 pupils from Kincorth Academy and Hazlehead Academy took part in the heritage-based engineering competition, inspired by The Wreck of the Whaler “Oscar”.

The whale hunting vessel was destroyed by severe weather conditions at Aberdeen Harbour in 1813, with only two of the 45 crew members surviving.

The K’Nex Lighthouse Engineering Masterclasses, run by TechFest and sponsored by Shell, saw 50 industry professionals become the students’ role models as they provided guidance and inspiration during two 90-minute workshops.

Focusing on maritime safety and working in the North Sea environment, the students, were tasked with designing and constructing a prototype lighthouse that would be located at Girdle Ness, using K’Nex

The pupils were asked to consider the dangers for people living around the coast of Britain and what to be aware of when out at sea such as strong currents, rocks and sandbars.

During the design and build stages, Shell employees provided advice on the technical aspects of the model build and how to develop project management skills such as team building, problem solving, innovation and communication, which are highly important in an industry setting.

To build the strongest and most stable tower, the pupils learned how the two main forces of tension and compression would affect their design and how to consider its centre of mass.

The qualifying lighthouses had to be tall enough to be seen far away, be strong enough to withstand high winds, rain and snow from storms and teams received a bonus for structures that included a moving mechanism for mounting a light.

The lighthouse models were reviewed by the industry professionals and the winning teams from each school were presented with prizes.

Irene Hannah, Discipline Engineering Manager at Shell, said: ''The UK is faced with an engineering skills shortage including within the oil & gas sector and measures need to be taken to address this. A strong pipeline of young engineers is needed to tackle our future technical challenges and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to inspire and support the next generation in Aberdeen through TechFest’s masterclasses.

“By bringing students face to face with engineering challenges and industry role models, we aim to have inspired students to think about careers in engineering.”

Aberdeen-based charity TechFest engages young people in the four main STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects and encourages them to follow a career which utilises these skills by demonstrating that they are both fun and relevant in day to day life.

Alies Bartelds, acting managing director of TechFest, said: “The K’Nex masterclasses provided pupils with a unique opportunity to engage with industry professionals and quiz them about their experiences in industry.

“Basing the challenge on one of the most well-known events in Aberdeen history enables the students to visualise a particular scenario and use their skills in engineering to come up with a durable lighthouse structure that would guide today’s sailors.

“We would like to thank all of the employees from Shell who volunteered to provide support and guidance to the pupils and excite their interest in STEM subjects.”

This summer, TechFest will mark the 25th anniversary of its popular TechFest festival, which attracts tens of thousands of children and adults annually to a series of STEM themed events in and around Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire.

In addition to the festival, TechFest also delivers a year-round programme of educational events for schools and young people.