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

Around 420 girls from Devon and Somerset were challenged to create their very own Droid, similar to those featured in the iconic movie Star Wars: The Last Jedi released earlier this month. The activity formed part of EDF Energy’s latest Pretty Curious studio events, encouraging girls to think about where a career in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) could take them. 

Star Wars: The Last Jedi has joined forces with EDF Energy’s 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 film features two inspirational lead characters, Rey and Rose, in STEM related roles and the partnership aims to encourage girls to look at science in a new light.

New figures show that just one in four[i] 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 two-day event, which was held at the University of Exeter, 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.

Wellington School, Somerset, won the first morning’s task with their idea of a hero droid, equipped with GPS, x-ray technology and heat sensors to send in to emergency zones. The droid could also deliver freeze-dried food rations. The first afternoon challenge was won by a team from South Dartmoor Community College who designed a droid to collect, deliver and sterilise water to those in need.

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 (VR).

Wellington School pupil Gracie Joseph said: “We enjoyed being creative and working together as a team. It was great to use the kits as they really helped us to understand how things work.”

Paula Cannings, IT Manager at Castle School, Taunton, said: “I wish there were things like Pretty Curious when I was at school as it would really have encouraged me to consider things like engineering as a career. This makes science fun and exciting and the girls are doing things here they just couldn’t do in the classroom.”

Miren Arechavala, a pupil at Castle School, Taunton, said: “It’s made me think about science and I’ve learnt new skills in a fun and exciting way.”

Sarah Cunningham, a support advisor at Coombe Dean Academy, Plymouth, said: “This is the first time we’ve done this and I’ve already asked when we can come back – it’s fantastic. There’s a real buzz. The girls are working together and learning but they don’t realise they’re learning because they’re having fun.”

Ruby Palmer-McKay, a pupil at Coombe Dean Academy, Plymouth, said: “I liked doing the virtual reality headsets as it was interesting and it’s not something you get to do very often. I want to be an equine vet and this is helping me to understand science.”

Rowan Evans, Head of Science at St Peter’s School, Exmouth, said: “This is getting the girls to think about science and it’s an excellent way to show them what they can do with science and the different career opportunities that are available to them. They all thought the Star Wars droid was cool! This is a great way to promote science and make it exciting.”

Elloise Cochrane, a pupil at St Peter’s School, Exmouth, said: “I really like science but this has been fantastic. We got to make things and then control them remotely.”

Fiona Jackson, Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Employer Branding at EDF Energy: “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 4,000 people in the South West region. 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. It has already exceeded this number in 2017, growing its intake to 35%. 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.

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