Building bridges with Corbridge Middle School pupils

Image shows school pupils building their models on tables.

 BM STEM team delivering STEM activities to year 7 & 8 pupils at Corbridge Middle School as part of their service life curriculum.


Last week the BM STEM team were at the historic village of Corbridge, west of Newcastle to inspire a group of 21 twelve to thirteen year-old pupils to choose a career in STEM. The team began the session by inquiring about the group’s understanding of military life and if they have links with the military. Building on from that, the team led a skills workshop about STEM jobs highlighting employability skills.

Image shows school pupils building their models on tables with RAF STEM Ambassadors.

To put the skills workshop lesson into practice, the pupils were challenged to build a bridge across a 60 cm gap which could hold a weight of 0.5kg using straws, paper, ropes and tap. The group was split into three teams and resources provided for each team. They were given time for planning after which they went on to the building phase.  Leadership skills were soon on display as you could hear team members coming up with ideas and providing direction and guidance to the rest of the team.

Image shows school pupils testing their bridges across two tables, with RAF STEM Ambassadors.

Halfway through the building phase the provision of extra material was stopped, and teams had to build with what they had left.  The pupils displayed initiative, communication and negotiation skills as they began bargaining for resources amongst teams to complete the task. The building phase came to an end after the allocated time and the ambassadors tested the strength of each bridge model with the 0.5 kg weight. Two of the three teams passed the strength test.

Image shows bridge models between two tables, as school pupil places weight on top.

A lesson on force, gravity and Newton’ laws of motion followed. They were then challenged to review and strengthen their current bridges. At this point the competition intensified with each team trying to prove to the others that their bridge was best.  The test weight was increased to 2.5 kg, and a 7 cm wide model car would be driven across the bridge.

Image shows RAF STEM Ambassador presenting to school pupils in classroom.

Once completed, the bridges were tested for suitability to drive over and strength to hold a 2.5 kg/25N force. All the bridge models passed both tests with one of the models able to hold up to 80 kg/ 800N. The BM STEM team could see the growth in confidence in the pupils throughout both sessions who were very engaged especially towards the end. The session ended with each team delivering a presentation in front of the group about what they had learned from the day’s activities.  The BM STEM team praised the teachers and pupils of the school for their hospitality. We are looking forward to delivering more activities at the school in the future.

Image shows bridge models between two tables and test model vehicle.

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