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Year 6 get engineering with Ramboll

On Wednesday 1 February, we were joined by two enthusiastic young structural engineers, Helen Leung and Mike Kovacs, from the engineering firm Ramboll. They delivered a special activity for Year 6, under the auspices of our Junior Inspire programme.

Firstly, they delivered an exciting presentation on some of the major projects in which Ramboll is involved, including the Queensferry Crossing which will provide a third bridge between Edinburgh and Fife, and others in which Helen and Mike have been personally involved: the new Tate Modern Extension in London and an important local commission, the new headquarters for ARM, here in Cambridge.

Year 6 pupils were given a fascinating insight into how the intricate process of designing buildings is a remarkable blend of old-fashioned calculations and sketches using pencil and paper and some of the latest high-tech methods from computer-aided design and using virtual reality glasses to ‘walk through’ a new design.

Our speakers were keen to answer questions from their eager young audience, which gave them a chance to explain about the kinds of skills and qualifications required to become a structural engineer, and thus to gain a deeper appreciation of the kinds of mathematical, scientific and design engineering knowledge and skills they are developing here in the Junior School.

The presentation was then followed by a group practical challenge: to build the tallest possible tower out of spaghetti and marshmallows capable of supporting a chocolate egg! The teams responded to the challenge in a variety of ways, and it was fascinating to watch a range of shapes emerge from the initial jumble of materials, many of them featuring common features such as strong triangular elements.

When time was up, our guests were ready, in true engineering fashion, measuring tape in hand to find out who had designed the tallest and most stable structure. The winning team had shown strong team work, the ability to work effectively under time pressure and an innovative and flexible approach, including pulling the marshmallows apart in order to provide more, lighter linking elements for the spaghetti.

All in all, this was a very exciting morning, which will hopefully have helped to inspire some of our Year 6s to consider a future career in engineering. We are very grateful to Helen and Mike for taking the time and effort to come and visit us and for acting as such inspiring role models.