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Local schools compete in innovative technology challenge


Group of students being presented their prize for winning the competition

Year 10 pupils from nine local schools took part in the annual Ballymena Rotary Club’s technology challenge at the College’s Ballymena Campus. For their challenge this year, the pupils had to design, build and test a weight powered vehicle to travel the furthest distance. A total of 72 pupils from Cambridge House Grammar School, Ballymena Academy, Castle Tower School, St Louis Grammar School, Dunclug College, St Patrick’s College, St Benedict’s College, Slemish College and Cullybackey College competed for the top prize of £200 and runner up prize of £100.

Dunclug College scooped top prize, while the runners-up were from Slemish College. The judges commented both schools for their knowledge and application of the STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) in a real-world scenario.

The young people were all given the same basic equipment to complete the challenge. Working in teams, they had to select a project manager and brainstorm possible solutions before writing up their proposed solution and submitting their practical working solution. 

Philip Boyle, Engineering lecturer at Northern Regional College and one of the event organisers, explained that the technology challenge is designed to promote a greater awareness of the importance of STEM subjects.

“Year 10 pupils have to make important decisions about their subject choices later this year. The technology challenge is an excellent way for them to learn ‘hands on’ about the practical application of STEM subjects for engineering, construction and joinery.

“Competing in the technology challenge is an enjoyable way for Year 10 pupils to learn about STEM subjects. It is always interesting to watch them work together as they figure out each element of the challenge.”

Philip added; “We are always delighted to host the Rotary Club Technology Challenge as it allows us to welcome local schools on campus. It’s an opportunity for the young people to view our facilities and learn about the STEM subjects, at a time when they are having to make important decisions around their future studies and possible career paths.”

Jim Briggs, President of the Rotary Club in Ballymena has been involved in the competition since its inception, outlined the thinking behind the event:

“The whole idea is to bring schools together. We give them an engineering task in order to engage the students to work within a team, and to inspire somebody into doing a STEM subject, like engineering. It is a tremendous opportunity. They come and they don’t know what’s facing them. It’s up to the students to organise it, do it and work as part of a team to complete the task.”

“Their engagement is just incredible; they really get stuck into it and work together as a team. You can feel the excitement, that there is going around, it’s great that the kids take it on and have great fun doing it.

“It’s a great opportunity to support STEM subjects to young people and for our sponsors to see the facilities that are available in the College itself.”

The event was sponsored by Michelin, Ballymena Business Centre, Moore Concrete, Thermo King, Wrightbus, ASF Engineering, Wilson’s of Rathkenny, Clarkes, Moy Park, AIB, News Rack, RLC, Smiths Engineering, SEG Group and Martin & Hamilton.