The Eagle Has Landed – STEM success during COVID-19

Children present their drawing design.

The COVID-19 pandemic meant STEM Ambassadors were unable to deliver face to face events or engaging activities for children, challenging the community to get creative and think outside the box.

Our RAF Coningsby Senior Activity Lead for Key Stage One and Two children developed a virtual activity that has proved to be very successful – Eagles Nest. 

Drawing inspiration from The Dragons Den, Eagle’s Nest challenges children to design their very own RAF aircraft of the future.  They are then required to present their ideas back to a panel of ‘Eagles’ who will decide on the design they would be willing to invest in.

Children sat at the table working on their drawing design.

A pack of information is sent to the school by post.  On the morning of the event the ‘Eagles’ dial in over Zoom or MS Teams to brief the students and introduce themselves and their current roles in the RAF.  Each Eagle talks about specific elements of aircraft operations; ranging from engines, to principles of flight, to logistics.  The challenge asks students to consider key design features such as cost, weight, aerodynamics, and safety.  At the end of the design element the students are required to present their proposal including background research, cost and intended operations for their designs.

Children sit at table working on their drawing design.

Designed for Primary students the virtual version was trialled during British Science Week, an annual 10-day celebration of STEM at the beginning of March.  Over the course of the week, the Station STEM team delivered the activity virtually to five different schools from the local area with some amazing results.  Some of the amazing creations included

  • An aircraft that rescued tigers (but nothing bigger!)
  • An aircraft that launched swarm drones in self-defence
  • A fast-jet aircraft with water-skis
  • An aircraft with a cape that saves animals
  • An aircraft with a detachable cockpit

Since the initial event word has spread and the team have been inundated with requests to deliver the event both locally and nationally and have reached in excess of 2000 children both in a virtual form and also face to face.  One of the most notable designs presented so far was from Warren Road Primary School in Orpington.  Their idea to collect rainwater while the aircraft is flying and separate it to use the hydrogen to power the aircraft and pumping the oxygen back into the environment was amazing.

Children sit at table working on their drawing design.

The level of engagement received from the children has been absolutely staggering, with each STEM Ambassador commenting on how rewarding the event has been to deliver.  RAF Coningsby has built close bonds not just with our local community but also with school federations across the country, promoting STEM to a huge audience.

The aim of the Eagles’ Nest was always to show that STEM subjects can be fun, engaging and relevant; a conduit to demonstrate children’s limitless imagination.  It has proven to those children that everyone’s talents are valued, important and in demand.  Collaboration, communication skills and the young people’s limitless imagination have left the team feeling inspired about future engineering and we look forward to seeing superman’s cape fitted to an RAF aircraft sometime in the near future!