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National Science and Engineering Week 2014

One of the most popular events in the Reading College calendar took place last week (17 – 21 March). National Science and Engineering Week gives both STEM and non-STEM subjects a chance to find out more and get involved in different activities, particularly the annual showcase.

F1 car simulator – students have been battling it all week to claim the fastest lap time. Congratulations to engineering student Reece who took the title!

Displays – throughout the week, there were displays from Blade Motorcycles Reading. On Wednesday we welcomed Renault who were showing how their electric and hybrid cars work and The North Hampshire Austin Enthusiasts’ Group were showcasing internal combustion of Austin classic cars.  

STEM careers fair – On Wednesday we welcomed University of Reading, Kingston University, the Army and businesses such as National Grid and Network Rail to speak to students about further study and careers in their industries.

Guest speakers – On Thursday, Prof. Atta Badii and Adrian Hill came to speak to staff and students.

Prof. Atta’s talk focused on his work in robotics and how he is looking at how to integrate robots into human lives, particularly those with dementia. He talk included discussions about what students think a robot is and showed videos of some of the world’s famous robots

Prof. Atta gave some interesting insight into this industry and how work is focused on making robots more mainstream (both in costs and use). He explained that movement is complex programming, and that walking is a real advancement in robotics – at the moment it’s impossible for robots to walk up the stairs!

Adrian Hill, Advertising Manager at Britain’s largest sci-fi magazine SFX Magazine held two talks for all the sci-fi fans at the College – of which there are many! Adrian talked about his career and working on projects with Walking Dead, Dr. Who and attending events such as Comic-Con.

He also talked about how technology from Hollywood has integrated itself into everyday life. Examples he gave were bringing back to life fossilised animals (Jurassic Park), touch sensitive screen (Minority Report) and tablet device (original Star Trek). Adrian talked about the next development in gaming – holographic gaming – and the prototype that he’s seen.

Friday showcase - From robots and app building to constructing gingerbread houses and dry ice demonstrations, the whole College got involved to demonstrate how science and engineering is used within their courses.

Adrian Hill returned to the College to be our guest judge, alongside some very tough critics – Bramley Primary School – who came to find out more about science and engineering and to put the College students through their paces by quizzing them on their projects.


Foundation catering students combined their cookery skills with construction techniques to build café themed gingerbread houses. Student Kyle Pocock said: “The primary school kids were really interested and wanted to know how long our houses took to build as they want to build one themselves. I’ve loved this week and working on our chocolate themed café, I’m most proud of our waterfall.”


Hairdressing students were running dry ice demos as this is something that is used in many different courses. In catering dry ice is used for food effects, in theatre productions and by media make-up professionals. Hairdressing student Jade Daniells said: “The children have loved it and can't wait to get involved. In fact College students and teachers were keen to have a go as well! Everyone had lots of questions to ask, and it’s been good to talk through what we do and how it's used across our courses. I've loved giving the demos.”


After visiting all the stands, Bramley Primary School decided to award their Star Choice Award to the business and IT department, who had a number of activities on their stand including student built apps, an introduction to the stock market and Lego robots.

During the main judging process, Adrian was looking at the presentation of the students work, the creativity and feasibility of the project and how well they interacted with Bramley Primary School and their college peers.

When announcing the winners Adrian Hill said: “I didn’t know what to expect when the College invited me to be the judge, but I’ve been totally wowed. It was a tough decision to choose a winner as I can see how much effort you’ve all put in.”

Adding to their trophy collection was the business and IT department who received the runners up trophy. The winning project was a working trebuchet (catapult from the Middle Ages) built by carpentry students.

Carpentry students Matt Meredith and Ryan Read said: “We’re so pleased, as we honestly didn't think we’d win. It was great to show people how the trebuchet worked, and to see the schools kids smiling and laughing. We decided on this project as we wanted to do something different from using computer technologies. The trebuchet was great fun to make and showcasing the technical side of construction that has been around for hundreds of years.”

Photos from the week can be found on the College’s Facebook page.