This week’s blog: The Big Bang Experience

Posted In Activities, Design & Technology

​​​​​​​The Big Bang Competition aims to highlight and recognise the achievements in all areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) as well as improve skills and confidence for project-based work.

The competition is open to all UK residents in full-time education or training. The UK finals take place at The Big Bang Fair in March each year at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham.

Finalists compete for over £20,000 worth of amazing prizes in the junior, intermediate and senior categories for science and engineering, as well as the coveted titles of GSK UK Young Engineer of the Year and GSK UK Young Scientist.

Why do we get involved?

  • Project work inspires young people to think and behave like scientists and engineers.
  • It allows young people to explore an area of interest and develop independent learning skills.
  • It is a chance to celebrate and share pupils’ achievements with the wider community and media.
  • It provides opportunities to network with like-minded peers, members of industry and STEM employers.

What makes a successful project?

The scope of the competition is deliberately broad, so any project in the field of STEM can enter – projects ranging from health to the environment and from computing to design and technology; the options are endless!

Our journey begins with Head of STEM, Mr Thomas, and the STEM Enrichment sessions on a Friday afternoon in the Design and Technology department. Possible projects are discussed, researched, planned and then put into production over many months.

The necessary paperwork is completed, and an application is entered online. We then have a long wait to see if our project, or projects, entered are good enough to reach the high standards required for the esteemed national finals.

With over 1,000 projects entered each year, it is always fantastic news when we receive the invitation to join a group of around 160 schools from around the UK to present our successful projects. Even more planning and refinement then takes place in preparation for the three-day trip to the NEC.

The trip always begins by loading up the School minibus and setting off at around 11am. With a stop midway for lunch, the first destination is always our accommodation close to the NEC. Registration takes place at 6pm followed by a welcome event for finalists. The pupils then have around two hours to set up their stand on the show floor. The stand normally has to be finished by 9pm and after a long day, all are ready for supper back at the accommodation followed by an early night.

The pupils have to be ready on their presentation stand by 8.45am the next morning ready for core judging and moderation. The stand has to be manned until 4.15pm when a show, especially for the finalists, is put on. After a well-earned supper, the pupils are normally treated to a cinema trip before heading back for another early night as the last day will be just as busy.

Thursday morning enables even more judges to chat and discuss the project with the pupils who always remain enthusiastic and professional during the two presentation days. Throughout the whole process, coachloads of visiting schools and their pupils fill the NEC halls and pose questions to the Bethany pupils. The task of explaining and talking through their project successes is always extremely tiring but the pupils’ enthusiasm keeps on shining endlessly. Their explanations and conversations with others are wonderful and certainly show both the ability to impress and inform others.

By 3.45pm the pupils normally pack up their stands in readiness for the award ceremony where the best of the best are celebrated. The day ends at 5pm and the long drive back to Bethany is the final challenge. After another midway stop for supper, the exciting and very rewarding journey always ends back at School at around 11pm. Everyone involved is quite often tired on Friday.

The whole Big Bang Experience is such a rewarding opportunity for the pupils involved to present their projects, engage with many visiting pupils and adults and generally show off the best of themselves. These experiences are ones that the pupils involved will never forget (especially my minibus driving!).

Anyone wanting to get involved in The Big Bang Competition, please sign up to STEM.

Past Successes:

  • 2014 – Casper Round, Sam Bates, Jack Wildish and Max Kelly were finalists with their Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (Drone).
  • 2017 – Sean Evelegh (Head of School) – Awarded the National prestigious ‘Colum McNally Cheeky Potato Prize’ for his woodworking skills with a chess/coffee table.
  • William Stoneham, Max Brown and Ben Scott were finalists with their ‘The ML Pelton Turbine’. A mini hydropower plant for electricity generation.
  • 2019 – William Stoneham, Max Brown, Alex Clark and Joe Bateman were National winners with their ‘MAW Heating Solution’ receiving the ‘Air Products Protecting the Environment Award’ plus £500 and a day trip to an Air Products Manufacturing Plant on The Isle of Grain, Kent.
  • Aaron Monk, Tommy Good and Ben Scott were finalists with their ‘Honda MT5 Renovation Motorcycle’ project.
  • 2020 – This year Aaron Monk and Ben Scott succeeded in getting to the finals with their ‘Independent Mobility for Disabled Users’ project but unfortunately the event was cancelled due to the concerns over the Coronavirus. There is always next year!

Mr Norman, Head of Design & Technology