15 Nov 17

Essex schoolgirls build robots of the future as EDF Energy and Star Wars: The Last Jedi join forces

Over 400 girls from across Essex, Kent and South East London were challenged to create their very own Droid, similar to those featured in the iconic movie Star Wars: The Last Jedi (in UK cinemas December 14th) as part of EDF Energy’s Pretty Curious studio events at Kent Showground this week, encouraging girls to think about where a career in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) could take them.  

This month, EDF Energy has joined forces with Lucasfilm and Disney for its Pretty Curious campaign, which helps girls to think about a career in STEM as well as giving them hands on experience and introducing them to inspiring role models. The partnership with Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which features two exciting and inspirational lead female characters Rose and Rey, provides a fantastic opportunity to empower girls to look at STEM in a new light.

New figures show that just one in four women work in STEM-related careers and as result the UK will continue to face a significant skills shortage if the number of girls studying these subjects at school and further education continues to stay below that of boys. As an innovative company reliant on future STEM talent, EDF Energy is helping to change this balance and to increase the percentage of women joining its workforce.

Thanks to the partnership, the girls at the event got the chance to create a Star Wars Droid and follow missions in groups of five. The groups were then challenged to come up with real life uses for the Droids. A group from Southend High School for Girls were awarded a runners-up prize for their idea for a robot with visual warnings and touch sensors to help the hearing impaired.

The girls attending the event also got the opportunity to learn more about smart technology in the home, artificial intelligence and learn how to ‘build a reactor’ using Virtual Reality.

Kathryn Curtis, a teacher from Southend High School for Girls said: “It’s great to see the girls engaging with these skills outside of the curriculum in an experience that we just can’t create at school. You can see that the girls have been inspired and some have got a real sparkle in their eyes. In a word: awesome.”

Claire Berry, a design and technology teacher from Ormiston Park Academy in Aveley said: “It’s been a fantastic opportunity for the schoolchildren to be exposed to the world of STEM and engineering. Hopefully it will inspire more and more girls to get into these subjects. The Droid activity was fantastic as it made the girls look at robotics and programming in a completely different way.”

Bobbi Constantine, a student aged 14 from St Clere’s School in Thurrock said: “I love Star Wars so when I walked through the door and saw we were building R2-D2 I was really excited. It’s been a really fun and interesting day - the virtual reality experience with the headsets was amazing. It has definitely made me think a bit more about getting a job in science.”

Fiona Jackson, Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Employer Branding at EDF Energy said: “There is great opportunity for young women to enter exciting and rewarding careers in STEM. We hope that by capturing girls’ imaginations through our events and our partnership with Star Wars: The Last Jedi, we will open their eyes to the huge number of opportunities available to them and where STEM subjects could take them in the future.”

EDF Energy employs over 11,000 people across the South East. As well as supporting education initiatives and programmes such as Pretty Curious, EDF Energy set a stretching target to increase our proportion of female STEM apprentices to 30% by 2018. We have already exceeded this number in 2017, growing our intake by 35%, but we know that we still have more to do. This compares to the national average for engineering apprentices of just 3.4%. 

For anyone unable to attend the sessions, EDF Energy runs a series of Pretty Curious Workshops across the country both in schools and at its visitor centres. For more information visit www.edfenergy.com/prettycurious

For more information contact:

Laurence Ollier
External Communications Manager - Generation (South East)
0781 3232 765

Notes to editors

Participating schools over the two days included:

From Essex: Ormiston Park Academy, St Clere's School, Southend High School for Girls, The Sweyne Park School

From Kent: 
Ashford School, The Robert Napier School, Kent College Canterbury, Invicta Grammar School, Thomas Aveling School, Rochester Independent College, Hugh Christie Technology College, Folkestone Academy

From South East London: St Angela's Ursuline School, Orchard Park High School, Prendergast Ladywell School, Deptford Green School, Drapers Academy, Marshalls Park Academy, The Brittons Academy

About the Pretty Curious programme:

Pretty Curious is a long-term programme from EDF Energy to address the critical under-representation of women working in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths). It aims to demonstrate the breadth of career opportunities available through pursuing science-based subjects at school and provides teenage girls with hands-on STEM experiences at workshops and events.

The Pretty Curious programme is one of many initiatives EDF Energy runs to encourage young people into STEM and also support women in its business. Over 900 male and female employees are part of EDF Energy’s Women’s Network, which runs mentoring schemes, a development programme and a variety of events aimed at supporting women. Its award-winning education programme, The Pod, reaches over 60% of UK schools.

EDF Energy is a Times Top 50 Employer for Women, a founding member of the POWERful Women initiative and is the only energy company to have achieved the National Equality Standard, the UK’s most comprehensive assessment of diversity and inclusion in business.

For more information, please visit the EDF Energy Pretty Curious website: www.edfenergy.com/prettycurious

About littleBits Droid Inventor Kit:

The Droid used at the workshop events was from the littleBits Droid Inventor Kit. Girls could create their own custom Droid and bring it to life using littleBits electronic blocks and the free Droid Inventor app to send their creation on more than 17 special Star Wars missions, complete with authentic droid sounds from the Star Wars film.

EDF Energy

EDF Energy is the UK’s largest producer of low-carbon electricity, meeting around one-fifth of the country’s demand and supplying millions of customers and businesses with electricity and gas.

It generates electricity with eight nuclear power stations, more than 30 wind farms, one gas and two coal power stations, as well as with combined heat and power plants.

EDF Energy is leading the UK's nuclear renaissance with the construction of a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point C. This will provide low carbon electricity to meet 7% of UK demand. The project is already making a positive impact on the local and national economy, British industry, as well as boosting skills and education. EDF Energy also invests in a range of low carbon technologies including renewables and battery storage. It is applying research and development expertise to improve the performance of existing generation and developing the potential of new technologies.

The company provides gas and electricity for more than 5 million customer accounts and is the biggest supplier of electricity by volume in Great Britain and the largest supplier to British businesses. It offers innovative energy systems for commercial customers and digital innovation for customers at home. EDF Energy has also launched its own innovation accelerator, Blue Lab, which focuses on making customers’ lives easier.

The Better Plan is EDF Energy's framework for being a sustainable and responsible energy business and is an integral part of EDF's 2030 vision to be the efficient, responsible electricity company, and champion of low-carbon growth. The Better Plan is underpinned by comprehensive environmental and social programmes which have been recognised by a wide range of organisations.

EDF Energy is part of EDF Group, the world’s biggest electricity generator. In the UK, the company employs around 13,000 people at locations across England and Scotland.

To find out more about the UK's energy challenges visit: www.edfenergy.com/energyfuture/