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Inspiring a love of STEM

Meeting new people and having a chat is probably one of the main things I missed because of the pandemic. I am a big talker and I love nothing more than meeting people and telling them what NESM is all about, especially at big events. Last week we had the opportunity to be involved in the Work-Wise Get Up to Speed with STEM event at Magna Science Adventure Centre in Rotherham. This is an event that we last attended in person in 2019. The 2020 event was cancelled (it was meant to take place the week after the first lockdown) and we attended the 'virtual' version in 2021, showcasing some purpose made educational videos about our extreme vehicles. So you can understand our excitement as we headed into the 2022 event, when we would actually get to meet and mingle once again!

The Get Up to Speed event is all about getting children and young people into STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) through different companies, careers, exhibitors and experiences. There were so many people from the world of STEM there, from Vulcan (with airplane propeller engine) to the Army (with a huge climbing wall and tanks) and from Balfour Beatty (with a robot and a digger). We were even able to sit in a McLaren sports car at organiser Work-Wise’s stall.

When we go to this type of event we don't just have to think about how we're going to set up our space to engage visitors and catch their eye, but also how we manoeuvre our vehicles into what can sometimes be tight spaces. So for this event our set up began on the afternoon before. Matt Wakefield (our CEO) and Dale Rutherford (one of our trustees, who is usually found tinkering with vehicles at our off site store), choreographed this whole part of the operation, bringing our vehicles into the Magna car park and organising them into the space we had been given. The most important vehicle to accommodate was our airport fire engine, a Nubian MK10 from 1989, one of our larger machines; it would be the main starting point of our display. Once this was in position, we were able to place our ambulance and Morris Minor (affectionately known as the 'moggy') police car, and move the 'blood bike' (used to deliver urgent blood supplies) and police bike into position. The ambulance stayed put, alongside our stand, but the bikes and moggy changed positions a couple of times. The arrangement below is what we eventually decided upon. We then arranged our handling objects and dress up on a table at the centre of our display; so that young people would get to not only interact with our vehicles but other parts of our collection too.

We rolled up early on the morning of the event, ready to tackle the day. This early morning consisted of last minute set up, a health and safety briefing and a bit of time to get a sneaky peek at what everyone else was up to around the event. Matt, Dale and myself each had separate parts of our display to manage; I was on dress up (along with a mugshot board for photos) and handling objects, Matt was looking after the ambulance and moggy police car and Dale was looking after the airport fire engine and bikes. We waited for the event to begin; we knew we would have school groups in the morning and afternoon with members of the public in-between. We remembered 2019 being busy, but it was nothing compared to this. The amount of interaction and engagement with young people was fantastic and they were all really interested to learn not just about the vehicles but the objects we had brought from our collection too. We could not believe the number of people we saw and spoke to - it wasn’t like pre-Covid times, it was better! We even had entertainment next to our stand, from ‘The Soldiers of Swing’ (of Britain’s Got Talent fame) and a choir too. If you look in the photo below, you will get a gist of how busy we were.

After an event ends, there is still the matter of packing everything away and leaving the space as we found it. Luckily you are usually on a high from the enjoyment of such an event but this comes with challenges too, like getting the vehicles out of the building (co-ordinating with other exhibitors as you go) and back to our off site store. There were a few hairy moments in this, but once again expertly manoeuvred by Matt and Dale (Josh, our Head of Visitor Services helping too) but we managed to get all our vehicles back safely to our store.

In total around 4,000 people came to the event and we have already had some wonderful feedback about it from the organiser Work-Wise, from some of the teachers who visited with their pupils:

“I have only positives to say about the whole event.”

“We took a small group from our STEM club as a rewards trip. They thoroughly enjoyed the two hours that they were there and were buzzing on their return.”

“Our students had a wonderful day!!!!”

“A really well organised day lots of great things to see thank you.”

“Outstanding event. Our students loved it and gained lots of information.”

“Excellent event, a wonderful opportunity for students. Thank you very much for organising it.”

It is always brilliant to do these types of events, but so rewarding to have such lovely feedback as well.

We’ll be heading back to Magna on Wednesday 8 June 2022 for a new event by Work-Wise called Get Up to Speed with Culture and Leisure, looking at careers in this sector and introducing children and young people to what a career in the heritage sector can look like. If you are coming along, please pop along to our stand and say hello.

Rosie Norrell

Learning and Discovery Co-ordinator

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