A TV personality who came to the public’s attention during University Challenge is helping to inspire a group of UK children during lockdown.
While full-time education in England is on hold until at least September that hasn’t stopped an innovative business from finding a way to ensure that young people aren’t missing out.
And the company’s long-standing annual initiative, designed to inspire the scientists and engineers of the future, was given a major boost when TV personality and famous University Challenge finalist Eric Monkman offered to support this year’s programme.
Monkman will deliver a special online video tutorial to a group of young people taking part in REACT Engineering’s Into Engineering scheme which is going ahead remotely despite the lockdown.
The company, known for providing solutions to complex industry challenges, and well-respected for its work with young people, runs the Into Engineering programme to give A-Level students experience of a real-life engineering problem.
Princess Anne visited REACT Engineering last year and saw the scheme in action. The firm’s charitable arm - The REACT Foundation - also received a Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service earlier this month for its work in inspiring young people.
Monkman, who is known to TV viewers for co-presenting Monkman and Seagull’s Genius Guide To Britain, along with fellow University Challenge contestant Bobby Seagull, said he was delighted to support the scheme.
Speaking from Canada about the opportunity to inspire young people in the UK, Monkman said: "In these difficult times, it helps to take a longer view. I look forward to talking to students about some of the great scientific and technological advances that have happened over my and their lifetimes."
REACT Engineering managing director Phil Redfern said: “It was really important to us that despite the lockdown we were able to provide the same opportunities for young people through our Into Engineering programme this year as we have done in previous years.
“Our number one priority during lockdown has been keeping everyone safe and healthy.
“But we also wanted to make sure we did not disrupt what we do and coming up with solutions to difficult problems is exactly what we do.
“Through technology we have found a way to make this work and put on a programme which we hope the students will find interesting and inspiring.
“We know a lot of young people have been missing out on interaction and having lots of things cancelled.
“We were focused on doing something to help, and we hope by making this event happen we can make a positive difference.
“The most successful initiatives we do with young people have collaboration at their heart, whether that’s with schools and colleges, businesses and organisations, or the wider community.
“We are delighted Eric Monkman is able to support us this year. And if any schools or colleges, businesses or organisations, focused on inspiring the next generation would like to be involved in our future programmes we’d love to hear from them.”
REACT Engineering team member and Into Engineering organiser Irene McMillan said: “Our annual Into Engineering week has been running since 1999 and the team were determined to deliver the seminar this year to local Year 12 students as in previous years.
“We looked at alternative ways of doing things - after all it's what REACT does best - and we have come up with a great agenda.
“We are also delighted to have recruited Eric Monkman to be our guest speaker.
“Although it’s taking place online there will still be an opportunity for the students to raise questions with Eric after his talk.
“With our changes for 2020 including extending the seminar to a two-week delivery period, it promises to be an exciting programme for the students.”
Cian Holliday, who is studying physics at Lancaster University and is on a summer placement at REACT Engineering, will be helping the students on the programme.
Cian said: “It’s great that this is going ahead and that REACT has got around the situation of lockdown to find a way to make this happen.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for the students to get a valuable insight into what the life of an engineer is like and to apply the things they are learning in the classroom to try to solve a real-life problem.
“It’s also brilliant that Eric Monkman is involved, someone the students will have seen on TV, and it’s a great chance for them to hear about his experiences and to broaden their horizons.”
REACT’s Into Engineering event will take place from June 29 to July 10.
This year’s engineering problem for the teams of students to solve will involve a real-world decommissioning challenge.
Teams taking part in this year’s challenge are Cumbrian schools Cockermouth School, and St Benedict’s School, Whitehaven.
They will represent a nuclear decommissioning contractor looking to break into the nuclear decommissioning market.
Their challenge is that they have been invited to tender for a package of work to carry out the safe, environmentally friendly and cost effective decommissioning of a fictional legacy nuclear facility.
At the end of the week, the teams will present their proposal to an expert panel representing the customer’s organisation who will determine whether or not they would place a contract with them to carry out the work.