Coachlines - October 2023

30.10.23 Assistant Eric Wallbank

Brooklands Innovation Academy – not just another STEM event

We recently took our charitable activities to promote STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) to another level with our involvement in the Brooklands’ Innovation Academy, which inspires and supports young people to become the next generation of scientists and engineers.

The Academy is part of the National Science Summer School programme, co-founded in 2012 by Professor Brian Cox CBE OBE FRS and Lord Andrew Mawson OBE, to help ‘make the UK the best place to do science and engineering’. Brian is well known from his many TV series, and more than 400 students spent the day at Brooklands, half of it listening to Brian and other inspirational speakers, and the other half day on practical workshop activities run by a wide range of companies and organisations including, for the first time, the Coachmakers.

We were asked to create a 30-minute workshop activity for groups of 10 young people, focused on the future and the automotive sector. We put together a challenge for two teams of five to build a small battery-powered electric car from Lego Technic. The teams then tested, refined and raced their cars over a short (10m) piece of tarmac outside the ERA and Campbell shed, where we were located among the historic racers of the 1920s and 30s that formed a fitting backdrop.

Students took to the challenge with varying degrees of experience and enthusiasm, but all completed the challenge and built a working car that completed the course. We unearthed the latent competitiveness in some: one team timed the car in each direction to see if one way was quicker (it was, there was a very slight slope), sweeping their side of the track (or adding detritus to the other half). We expected the speed of the cars to vary with the choice of gearing of the motor to the axle, but there were other factors that came into play which we think was the result of weight distribution – more weight over the front axle resulted in more friction – so we learnt something too.

Having exhausted ourselves running eight such workshops during the day, there was then an evening Careers Fair for additional students to attend. This was similar to some of our previous STEM careers’ events, but with the added draw of the inspirational speakers including Prof Cox. Our stand attracted attention with our 3D printer and the range of somewhat bizarre items it has produced. Many visitors took away a business card with QR codes to link to our Careers Guide in Engineering and the Automotive Industry.

Brooklands was an appropriate setting with its long history of innovation in both the automotive and aerospace industries. We were in good company – other workshops included those run by McLaren F1, Airbus, British Airways, The National Physical Laboratory, The Heritage Skills Academy and others.

For more photographs of the day, courtesy of JP Bland for Brooklands Museum, follow, the link here – the password is m9fxUHwv –

For the first time the event received a royal visit, from HRH The Duchess of Edinburgh, though her visit did not extend to our workshop activities – maybe next time? For the official photographs of the royal visit, see here, courtesy of Andy Newbold/Surrey Lieutenancy:

We are proud to be associated with such a high-profile event. We got a real buzz out of seeing young people engage with an engineering challenge. You will have read of our efforts during the past couple of years to ‘up’ our role in promoting STEM subjects to school children, with the aim, by our 350th year (2027) of connecting directly with 350 students.

To that end we have expanded our activities to include running stands where students get ‘hands on’ with a practical activity and we engage directly with them. At Brooklands we interacted with more than 100 students. We have more of these events coming up and anyone with an interest in STEM engagement is welcome to join our merry band of folks willing to put a small amount of time in for an immeasurable reward.

Thanks to Liverymen Andrew Blatherwick and Nick Lyford, Freeman Ellie Bacon, and Funmi Looi-Somoye – both Ellie and Funmi are previous recipients of the Coachmakers/JLR Scholarships for young women studying STEM subjects at university. Thanks also to Freeman Tamalie Newberry, CEO of the Brooklands Museum, who, quite rightly, suggested our involvement would be good for the Company.