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RAF team makes STEM fun, building teamwork at a young age

RAF STEM Team 210519170519 { seq} ( Photo John Bugeja) visits Governor's Meadow School to provide pupils with an insight into the subject of Science, Technology Engineering and Maths

A team from RAF Gibraltar is working with local schools to help children develop creative and teambuilding skills focused on science, technology, engineering and maths [STEM].

The RAF team was in Governor’s Meadow School yesterday, helping Year 3 pupils to find solutions to challenging – but also fun – problems based on real-life situations.

Leading the exercise was Squadron Leader Colm McGuinness who explained the process.

“Today we are having an activity day with the children which is based around STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths], just to try and encourage the kids in those topics,” he said.
The children were divided into four groups and were assigned a mission called the Egg Drop Challenge.

In this mission they needed to assist Squadron Leader Eggbert Yoke, a fictitious RAF test pilot who was testing a new helicopter around the skies of Gibraltar.

“The problem is the helicopter has become very unreliable,” the children were told.

“This means he may have to jump out and what we need to design is something for when he jumps out, so that he doesn’t go falling to the ground with a splat. No one wants to see an egg go splat on the floor.”

The children had to design a Fall Arrest System – a parachute – and were given 150 RAF pounds to buy any necessary items from the shop to build it. The shop was open only once and all purchases had to be made at the same time.

At the end of the exercise the designs are put to the test.

“At the beginning of the sessions it is all a bit chaotic so what we try and encourage is team work,” said Squadron Leader McGuinness.

“What they try to do is come up with their own designs first and what I will encourage them to do then is work together to come up with one design,” he added.

School Head Teacher Fiona Ferro called the exercise with the RAF team was “very important for 20th century learning skills.”

“It linked very much with our project-based learning that we are doing in the afternoons, where we are getting children to find a solution and to come up with ideas to be able to solve a problem based on real life situations.”

“With STEM, they have skills like collaboration, team work and enquiry based learning.”

“I think it is a great idea for all the children to work with that collaborative learning, which is one of the key features of the school,” she added.

She believes that instilling teamwork into the children at a young age helps.

“You can see that it has been built up from a very early age when they are in nursery or reception they very much like to be independent and working on their own,” she said.

“What we are trying to do now is show that is it a good thing to be an independent learner, but that there are times that you do have to work as a team.”

These STEM sessions have been held at four other schools in Gibraltar, but due to the limited resources of the team, not all schools can be covered.

However, their aim is to get to as many children as possible within all the schools with their team of five.

Squadron Leader McGuinness described the visits to the other schools as fantastic.

“We have been to first schools and middle schools. The activities we do with middle schools is slightly more advanced and involves a lot more mathematics but this is really fun with the first schools,” he said.

“We have had a lot of encouraging comments,” he added.

Referring to the actual activity, he said that many eggs survived their falls but there have been some unfortunate mishaps.

The team whose egg does not make it are encouraged to try again and the teams whose eggs are successful are emboldened to improve on their design.

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