Harrogate schoolgirls fly through STEM Hovercraft Challenge

8 March 2016

More than 80 aspiring young female engineers from schools across Yorkshire took part in a challenge to design, build and race their own hovercrafts at The Mount School in York, as the popular annual ‘SES Hovercraft Day’, sponsored by SES Engineering Services, returned for a third year.

The York girls’ Quaker school hosted an exciting workshop which brought together Year six girls from Brackenfield School from Harrogate, Cundall Manor, Knavesmire Primary, Minster School, St Wilfrid’s Primary and Terrington Hall.

At the end of the workshop, the hovercrafts were judged for their design, as well as aesthetics, before taking to the track and racing their hovercraft against each other.  The wining team was Brackenfield School’s Flying Saucers who took the special SES Engineering Services Hovercraft Challenge trophy back to their school.

The event is held in association with SES Engineering Services, part of the Wates Group, and funded by the charitable programme Wates Giving, set up by the family governing owners of the Group.

The students worked together in teams alongside their own teaching staff and post-graduate students from the University of York.  Each craft was powered by a leaf blower engine in order to carry one ‘pilot’ from each team along a specially built racing track.

Adrienne Richmond, Principal of The Mount School, said:

There is a widely recognised need to correct the gender imbalance in STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths) careers. As a mathematician myself, I am keen for educators to continue striving to inspire girls of school age about STEM subjects.

This popular workshop gives girls the chance to apply themselves to a design-based practical task and have a lot of fun along with it. We are very grateful to SES for their generous support, to J and J Events for their inspiring workshop and to the University of York for providing the Science Mentors.


Joanne Crowther of J and J Events, which designed and presented the SES Hovercraft Day, said:

We are delighted to return to The Mount and York for this workshop with the younger girls; they tend to absorb the concepts surprisingly quickly. Their enthusiasm is both infectious and endearing and we hope they take away with them a renewed enthusiasm for science, maths and creative engineering.

The winning teams were presented with their prizes by SES senior planner Hadeil Miller, who remarked that the event is “a fantastic way to inspire young girls to aspire to succeed in engineering”.

Hadeil continued:

This is the second year SES has supported Hovercraft Day which is a very exciting workshop, and a perfect example of industry and the education sector working together to help the next generation of engineers move into the limelight.

Every year, I’m hugely impressed with the girls’ creativity, tenacity and commitment to the challenge. There were definitely some budding engineers of the future in the room. I hope this challenge has inspired some of the girls to consider a future career in engineering – it has proved to be a fantastic career for me. You never know, in years to come, some of these girls could be my future colleagues at SES.


Adrienne Richmond added:

Many people have heard of STEM.  There is a movement now to innovate further by including Art and Design at the heart of STEM, to transform STEM into STEAM and drive creative innovation. We are thrilled to partner with SES Engineering Services for continuing this creative and inspirational project.

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