Pioneering engineering firm inspire thousands of children

MORE than 7,500 young people are being inspired by science over the next two weeks thanks to a forward-thinking engineering company.

Children are being treated to the London Science Museum’s “Out Of This World” show taking place in Cumbria in an action-packed fortnight of events.

The shows, which started on September 23, are organised by the REACT Foundation which was created by REACT Engineering in 2004, with the objective of raising the aspirations of young people from the area and inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers.

Celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, The REACT Foundation now offers bursaries to Year 11 and sixth form students who are going on to study STEM subjects at college or university.

The Foundation held its first science show back in 2006 when TV science celebrity Jonny Ball - father of radio star Zoe Ball - presented a science show to 120 lucky primary schoolchildren.

After delighted teachers and children asked if it could be repeated, the annual REACT Foundation Science and Engineering Days have grown to such an extent that they now take place over a fully-booked fortnight across west Cumbria with more than 84,000 students taking part since the first show.

Irene McMillan, of REACT Engineering, said: “The children absolutely love the shows. They get booked up straight away by the schools. They are an integral part of the school calendar now.

“Expect bangs, wallops, rocket launches, plenty of entertainment and excitement,” said Irene.

“We did have one negative comment one year….we were told that the kids got too excited!”

As well as going into secondary schools across the area the main primary event takes place over two days at Lakes College, Lillyhall, Workington on September 24 and 25 with more than 2,000 primary schoolchildren attending. This year they will have a special visit to St Patrick’s School Cleator Moor where Montreal School students will join them for an explosive show.

A four-strong team - Ronan Bullock, Anais Radiere, Ted Hill and Kate Hunter - from the Science Museum in London, lead the shows and a series of special workshops during the fortnight.

Secondary school students from Whitehaven Academy, Nelson Thomlinson School in Wigton, and Netherhall School in Maryport will all take part in a special Water Transport challenge to try to transport water without using buckets.

The Reactioneers, a group of 16 primary schoolchildren who meet at REACT’s offices at Cleator Moor on Tuesday evenings in term times in sessions manned by volunteers from REACT’s own team, will enjoy their own Slime Time workshop on September 24. Children with special needs who attend Mayfield School at Whitehaven will also enjoy their own Slime Time workshop with the Science Museum team on October 1.

The final show of this year’s run takes place at Millom School on October 4, when children from Millom School’s feeder primaries will join their own students at the action packed shows.

The REACT Foundation science shows are sponsored by E.ON and the University of Cumbria, with the latter also now spreading the initiative to schools in Carlisle.

Pete Woolaghan, chair of the REACT Foundation, said: “The science shows are the best two weeks of the year - concentrated energy and excitement from start to finish.

“It’s wonderful to have the University of Cumbria on board again this year alongside our longstanding supporters E.ON who run the Robin Rigg windfarm in the Solway. They have been tremendous supporters over the years.

“This year’s shows from the Science Museum have a space related theme to mark the 50th anniversary of the moon landing and build on our Space Day event earlier in the year to celebrate REACT’s 25th anniversary. The shows are new so I’m really looking forward to the experience."

Phil Redfern, managing director of REACT, said: “It’s wonderful to see the reaction of the young people to these shows. We hope many are inspired and excited to find out more about science.

“Whether when they leave school or university, they end up travelling the globe or staying closer to home we hope it opens their eyes to some of the amazing careers they can have with science, some with world-leading innovative businesses right here on their doorstep.

“It is very rewarding to see the impact and difference the shows can make to young people’s attitudes and thinking towards science and engineering.

“We are passionate about giving young people the very best opportunities, and are committed to continuing to build our own company around the ideas and skills that young people bring to our business, as well as supporting initiatives which help the community.

“It’s amazing, and hugely satisfying to witness how the charity has grown from 15 years ago when the REACT Foundation was first set up to mark the company’s 10th anniversary, and how now, with REACT Engineering marking its 25th anniversary this year, the science shows continue to develop and inspire a whole new generation.

“Credit goes to all the volunteers at REACT, the fantastic team from the Science Museum in London, and to the event sponsors for making the shows bigger and better every year.”