Trampolines, towers, tours: Inspiring the next generation of engineers

Somersaults, spins and springs helped to bring science to life for high school pupils during an action-packed visit to the University campus.

Year eight students from Batley Girls’ High School enjoyed a trampolining demonstration that explained the physics and forces behind the moves, and took part in interactive engineering workshops, visiting the state-of-the-art Sir William Henry Bragg Building and touring the Mechanical Engineering labs.

The session was the first in a pioneering project – The Mechanics of Life: Movement, Mobility and Me – which brings together University engineers, led by Dr Briony Thomas from the School of Mechanical Engineering, with creative minds at Northern Ballet.

Dr Briony Thomas stood alongside another attendee.

Dr Briony Thomas (left) helps lead the project, which continues through the year and into 2024. (Credit: Sophie Beth Jones)

The aim is to challenge stereotypes and perceptions of engineering and introduce new audiences to the mechanics of movement through dance.

Dr Thomas said: “This project highlights the importance of collaboration and the power of partnership across sectors, and across disciplines. For the young people involved, the aim is to inspire an understanding of the role of engineering in society and how concepts they learn in school can translate across the disciplines.

“I want us to create something magical and inspiring with the partners and young people involved. By sharing the resources and learning from this collaborative process I hope we will inspire people to think differently, and that it will lead to exciting developments in teaching and new research collaborations.”

Pupils described their visit to Leeds as “fascinating” and said they’d enjoyed putting their new engineering knowledge to the test by building towers out of straws.

Someone measuring a tower made from straws, using a tape measure, while surrounded by young students.

Credit: Sophie Beth Jones

The youngsters will also take part in workshops with Northern Ballet in November. They will co-design an engineering-inspired performance, choreographed and performed by the renowned Leeds-based dance company, and filmed for a screening which will premiere in 2024.

Through this unique collaboration, the ground-breaking project seeks to create lasting relationships across arts, science, and engineering.

Earlier this year, the project was selected for an Ingenious Award, a scheme run by the Royal Academy of Engineering and funded by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) to support public engagement projects with grants of up to £30,000. It has also received further funding from the ESRC Impact Acceleration Account.

Further information