Schools Activities Report - 2016


IMechE - Dorchester and Weymouth Area Schools Liaison Officer
September 2015 to August 2016


The Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) is committed to inspiring young students in schools and colleges to enter STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) careers.  We also seek to inspire Teachers, so that they can deliver stimulating lessons and guidance to students.

In Dorset this work has been taken forward under the guidance of the Schools Liaison Officer (SLO) for some 20 years.

We take a three level approach based on experience gained over the years.

Year 4 (8-9 years old) is the optimum age for inspiring young people’s minds and catching their imagination and interest in Science and Engineering.  Students are taken on day-trips to 'Explore at Bristol' or 'Winchester Science Centre' where they learn by using all the hands on machinery and experiments.  Some schools make a field trip where the Rangers and Experts inspire them to discover natural wonders, and challenge them to think how the environment has evolved.  This teaches students how to observe, understand and evaluate using a scientific approach.  It is also about teamwork and personal interactions, essential skills for engineers.

The activities are jointly funded by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and the Schools, Parents and Pupils themselves.

Sample feedback from each student is on the Institution website and the outcomes are amazing.  They are really enthused and inspired at this age.

At Secondary level Years 7 to 13 (11 to 18 years old) students are involved in college  activities to enable them to experience resistant materials, engineering, graphics,  electronics/control, textiles and food technology - the broadest sense of Technology.

At the top level we work to inspire the Staff in the Schools and College Design & Technology Departments with the possibilities for their students.  This year two teachers retired and a young female mechatronics teacher joined Budmouth College to give a good balance.  We try to encourage more girls every year and after school Inventors club has more girls than boys.

The highlight of last year was the delivery of an Institution of Mechanical Engineers funded 3D Printer, to link with the Solidworks CAD provided by local industry.  This was delivered to Budmouth College at the end of August 2014 and has been set to work and used by the younger staff.

The staff are inspired and enthused by it, and this year have used it with all Design & Technology students from Year 7 through to Year 13 (11 to 18 years old (A level)).  The Head Teacher was impressed and we have lifted the status of Design and Technology within the College even higher. 918 students have passed through and experienced the printer this year! (see below). 


The Design and Inventors Club meet every Tuesday in term time and is mainly Year 7s and Year 8s (11/13 years old). They turn up every week and are very keen to create and manufacture items that inspire them on the night.  There have been around 20 students this year, with more girls than boys.

The Design and Inventors Club also participated in a Qinetiq competition to investigate boat design parameters, to a given specification and motor.  We produced experimental model hull designs and then built a remote controlled model boat to our final design. This was raced in a national race at Haslar hydrodynamics facility.  This was a great experience for our team.

We built a go-cart towards the end of the year, very good for team design and manufacture.

We have supported the Textiles Technology area with materials and small items of equipment to enable screen printing standards to improve greatly.

The Institution procured a 3D printer in 2014 for Budmouth College to evaluate, and see how it can be used to enthuse and inspire all areas of the D & T department: product design, graphics design, control, electronics, food technologies and textiles.

The printer was delivered to school 27 August 2014, was set to work during the summer 2015 and has been evaluated during this school year.

The 3D Printer has been used by 918 students in D & T, with a breakdown:

Year 7         251 )       resistant materials, engineering, graphics,

Year 8         252 )       textiles, food technology (6 subjects - all students
                                 Yrs 7, 8 9)

Year 9         192 )       (option year)

Year 10         85 )       students can opt for 1 or 2 of the 6 subjects above
                                 for Yr 10/11

Year 11         81 )

Year 12         31 )       students choosing to study 1 subject at A level
                                 - Yr 12 &13

Year 13         26 )



All of these students have experienced, and some have used, the 3D printer.  This technology comes naturally to them.  We are very fortunate that we have Solidworks (one of the main industry standards 3D design software packages) supplied by local industry.

The A level students are able to programme Solidworks themselves, and then use it to make components for their projects.

So the provision has lifted the College students to experience the Industry standard and current way of working.  This has encouraged many to take their studies forward to A level.

All of the engineering A level students have been given speed interviews (with local industry support) to encourage them into Engineering, and many past students are now carrying out degree studies.


Broadmayne First School

Broadmayne made a trip to the Lyme Regis Science and Fossil Festival on 29 April, taking 31 children, details below.

They also went to Charmouth fossil hunting 9 May with 30 children.

Science trips provide a really excellent day, that I strongly support.  The Rangers are really good at explaining how scientists work from the evidence around, then make deductions and record the facts.  They encourage children to work together, to support each other and to have an ordered, structured approach to science, and hence engineering.

Broadmayne attended the Rocket Design Day on 15 July, details below.

Frome Valley CE VA First School

Frome Valley attended the Rocket Design Day on 15 July, details below.

They also brought in a scientist from the Marine Conservation Trust for a day, to give hands on experience of the scientific approach.

Piddle Valley CE First School

Piddle Valley were provided with equipment, including a suit with all the body's organs in place, in 3D.

They also attended the Rocket Design lecture in Thomas Hardye's school.  See below for details.

Puddletown CE First School

Puddletown missed out on a trip to a Science Centre because of budget cuts and late funding arrival.  They were supported with hire of a mobile science dome / planetarium on 19 May 2016.  See below for overview of Science Dome / Planetarium.  They used it to support the whole school of 120 children.

Cheselbourne Village School

Cheselbourne were arranging to procure equipment to £100 right at the end of term (somebody had to be last!).  Details will be provided in September.

Portesham CE VA Primary School

This is a small village school, rather isolated between the Weymouth and Bridport school areas.  They have 70 pupils and took Years 4, and 5 (8 to 10 years old) to 'Explore @ Bristol' (see below) on 29 January 2016.  They took 35 students.

St Mary's Primary School, Bridport

This year St Mary's visited 'Yeovilton Fleet Air Arm Museum' on 26 February 2016 with 25 children from Year 5 (10 years old) and 25 from Year 6 (11 years old).  See below for Yeovilton overview. St Mary's is a primary school, hence the older children (older than First schools).  It has a very high portion of 'Looked After' (30%) and children on free school meals (40%).

Hazelbury Bryan Primary School

Hazelbury Bryan missed out on a trip to a Science Centre because of budget cuts and late funding arrival.  They were supported with materials and hire of a mobile science dome / planetarium.  See below for overview of Science Dome / Planetarium.  The whole school and the pre-school used the dome, 120 children.  In the evening they arranged for parents and children to return to school to view the dome, with a specific set of stars for the night displayed, then they went outside on a perfect dark night to see the real thing through binoculars and telescopes!!



Altogether some 450 children younger children have been on trips or had materials supplied, or had facilities / experts brought in. Around 950 secondary students at Budmouth have been supported.  A grand total of around 1400 students.


'Explore @ Bristol' and 'Winchester Science Centre'

'Explore @ Bristol' and 'Winchester Science Centre' provide young people with a wonderful day of totally hands on experience of many aspects of Science and Engineering.  They are always enthused and inspired as you can see from the Thank You letters provided on the IMechE website.  Many students persuade their parents to take them back!  There is a huge amount of learning when guided by Dorset Institution of Mechanical Engineers and Staff.  The planetarium is inspirational and the 20 minute workshops / demonstrations are often explosive!

Both centres have similar types of equipment, experiences and a planetarium. Winchester access is easier being straight off the M3, Bristol traffic is very tedious.

Yeovilton Fleet Air Arm Museum

The museum arrange various workshops.  In one workshop children assemble a glider and launch it from the pitching/rolling deck of a model aircraft carrier using the model catapult.

In another workshop they build a model launch rig to eject a model pilot into the air, measuring the launch height and recording results.  Then they were challenged to work out how to provide more power and to measure and compare the results.

The first workshop took place underneath Concord 002 used for testing which we walked through later!

They then have a flight in a simulated helicopter, landing on the deck of an aircraft carrier where they watch a simulated launch of an aircraft, and also a landing with very realistic film and loud! Sound.

In another workshop they introduce the theory of helicopter flight, with examples of air flow and its effects on the blades producing lift, and the tail rotor for stabilisation.

This is a truly amazing experience.  Travel is much shorter, so a shorter day for staff.

Science Dome / Planetarium

Science domes / planetariums come in varying diameters from 4m to 7m.  They are hemispherical and can be used indoors and out.  Ours were used in school halls.  They contain a central 3D projector, displaying images on the inside of the dome (like the larger planetariums).  They can hold from 20 to 40 depending on size of dome and children.

The graphics is provided by amazing software packages.  One tells the origins of the solar system and the position of stars in the heavens.  It continues to describe the formation of the earth, and has exceptional graphics showing the molten core of the earth, and the flow of molten streams to their outlets in volcanoes in their correct locations.  This is followed by a brief overview of the earth's surface layer.


Rocket Design Day

The Rocket Design Day was arranged by the Thomas Hardye School in Dorchester.  The lecturer explained the principle of air and jet fuel powered rockets, with practical demonstrations of the power of both.  An explosive presentation!


Lyme Regis Science and Fossil Festival

The Science and Fossil Festival in Lyme Regis was an amazing day with presentations from Oxford University, Southampton Oceanography Centre and the Antarctic Expedition among others.

Oxford University fitted children with paint laden sponges on their feet, then they walked like dinosaurs along a track. By measuring the pace length and hip height, and timing to measure the speed, the children were shown how to calculate the speed of the dinosaur and to look up the species this matched.  An amazing piece of basic science.

The Southampton Oceanography Centre described the life of an oceanographer at sea and showed a sectioned core they had bored in the Pacific seabed, showing 20,000 years of time.  They were allowed to gently touch the surface, and at 8,000 years ago there was a dark line showing the volcanic ash from a massive volcano, which caused a tsunami!

There were many other exhibitions on fossil and Jurassic coast rock structures, a god basis for civil engineering.

Funding for 2015 / 2016 Year and Budgeting for 2017

2015/2016 has been a very difficult and frustrating year for me.  We had the year planned by the summer of 2015, but the budget was halved to £3,650 and had to cover 15 months, not 12, until December 2016.

This meant all activities had to be replanned during the school year, when teachers are overloaded.  Most funding wasn't released until January 2016.  Trips were booked in good faith and fortunately cheques arrived a day or two before departure!

I hope this will not occur again as it consumed a large amount of my time and energy which could have been put to better use with the students, however, it has been a good test of the goodwill built up over the years with the schools, coach companies, and event providers!

I understand today (8 August) that funding will be limited to the 2015/2016 spend for January to December 2017.  I would ask if possible if the budget could be approved in the autumn 2016 (although not available until January 2017), as Science trips need to be booked well in advance to obtain suitable dates at the venues.

Also at the end of 2015, early 2016 I was unwell and unable to go on some trips; I am now back up to speed.


Outline Costs (2016 cost base)

The cost of an 'Explore @ Bristol' or 'Winchester Science Centre' trip are average about £650 for a coach, plus about £350 for entry fees; say £1000.

Schools were limited in trips this year and in 2017 because of budget limitations, only Hazelbury Bryan, who missed out this year because of the cuts, may go to 'Explore @ Bristol' or 'Winchester Science Centre'.

The cost of a more local science trip is about £250 for a coach plus around £150 for Rangers / Guides, say £400.

The cost of a science dome / planetarium varies from £450 to £650 depending on the times and number of children.

We also supply materials and minor items to schools for Projects to enable the inspiration to continue during the daytime curriculum.  It is amazing what value £50 or £100 can make to update old, broken minor equipment and materials.  It lifts the teacher’s spirits as well as the students.  It does take effort to ensure that each purchase is focused on science and engineering.

For 2017 we have not planned to expand this work to other schools, ideally we aim to support small village schools, as the larger schools are better able to fund activities.

SLO time

This work takes around 300 hours of the SLO time each year, as it is necessary to go on the trips to enthuse the young people and to be seen around the schools.  Not to mention the personal satisfaction of being with such enthusiastic and keen young students and potential engineers and technologists.

This has been a busy year, linking with schools and establishing their needs to fit in with their particular approach to the curriculum and the budget.

In 2016/2017 I plan to consolidate and further evaluate the work with the schools/college above, rather than add more schools, and have cut out one school to achieve the budget.  I do have links with other schools in the county through my other voluntary work, but want to ensure my time is most efficiently used.  My illness reduced my hours with children this year, but this was balanced by the replanning.

Together with my other voluntary work I have managed to reduce from 1000 hours last year to 600 this year, but it's not easy.


Steve Stubbing

Institution of Mechanical Engineers

Dorchester and Weymouth Area

Schools Liaison Officer

8 August 2016

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