Sleaford firm runs STEM event at High School in effort to attract more girls into engineering

A Sleaford company has led a special event at one of the town’s schools aimed at inspiring more girls to choose a career in engineering.

The science, technology and engineering event was held at Kesteven and Sleaford High School last Wednesday led by local packaging machine company, Grunwald UK, which has been based in the town for 15 years.

Exciting engineering and science day at Kesteven and Sleaford HIgh School.

Exciting engineering and science day at Kesteven and Sleaford HIgh School.

The initiative saw 120 Year 9 students work in groups to programme little robots to safely circumnavigate a package across a map of a factory floor from loading to unloading areas, calculating the correct distances needed.

Another exercise saw students use card, straws and tape to create a gravity-powered roller loader factory. It involved designing, building, testing and problem-solving.

Grunwald sponsored the day with the support of the Processing and Packaging Machinery Association Business Education, Skills and Training scheme – a registered charity - and The Engineering Development Trust (EDT). The PPMA BEST programme was set up in 2014 to work with schools to provide pathways for young people to develop a career in engineering within the processing, packaging, robot, automation and industrial supply industries.

James Causebrook, managing director of Grunwald UK and Langguth UK, recently joined the board of directors of PPMA. He explained Grunwald engineer filling and sealing equipment for things like cups and bottles. His franchise handles sales, marketing, project delivery and upkeep of the equipment in UK, Ireland and USA. He said days like this helped to plant a seed among young people for the future.

Sophie Creed and Amia Coupland programming their factory robot at the STEM day.

Sophie Creed and Amia Coupland programming their factory robot at the STEM day.

They also sponsor apprentices and undergraduates and he said this is crucial for his company: “In Sleaford at the moment we employ 12 people but we are very serious about increasing that head count to 20 or 30 in the next 10 years. My biggest problem is finding the staff due to the current skills shortage. We have a new engineer starting but it has taken me nine months to find him. This is the reason for days like today.”

He also looks to upskill existing staff with BTEC qualifications and working with the University of Lincoln.

He saw the day as a great success and was amazed at the skills shown, in quickly re-engineering the robots.

Leanne Martin, Subject leader for Science, said: “The girls never get to spend a whole day on a project like this, so they are fuly engaged seeing it through from beginning to completion and getting to work with experts from industry.”

Students getting to grips with their design challenges.

Students getting to grips with their design challenges.

The students said they enjoyed testing out their theory in practice.

James Cawsebrook, MD of Grunwald UK in Sleaford leading the STEM event.

James Cawsebrook, MD of Grunwald UK in Sleaford leading the STEM event.