A taste of the latest technology: partnering with local primary schools in robotics and 3D-printing

A taste of the latest technology: partnering with local primary schools in robotics and 3D-printing

Pupils and teachers from QE’s Technology department have been visiting local primaries to help them dip their toes into 3D-printing and robotics.

First, QE donated 3D printers to Northside Primary in North Finchley and Foulds School in Barnet, sending along a group of sixth-formers to help set the machines up and explain how they can be used.

Then, the award-winning Hybrid robotics team took along two of its robots to Monken Hadley CE Primary School and gave the children there an introduction to exactly what is involved in competitive robotics.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “At Queen Elizabeth’s School, we cherish our place in the local community and are keen to work together with other schools and organisations in the area. Partnerships such as these benefit all who are involved, with our students gaining from the experience of presenting what they have learned in these informal, interactive workshops, while the primary schools are introduced to some very exciting, cutting-edge technologies.”

The 3D Printers donated to Northside and Foulds schools were among a large batch of machines given to QE technology company Cisco Meraki. During the early stages of the pandemic, they were used as part of a ‘print farm’ producing urgently needed PPE for the NHS under a London-wide initiative headed by QE Head of Technology Michael Noonan that involved the online 3D Crowd network.

“With supply chains subsequently catching up with demand for PPE, we were looking to retire the machines to schools that needed them,” Mr Noonan said. “We gave a commitment as the Technology department to support the two schools in setting them up and in helping to train staff so they could bring 3D printing into their curriculum.

“Students on our new Year 12 course – part of the two-year A-level in Product Design – have been gaining far greater knowledge of 3D-printing recently through setting up the two dedicated Sixth Form printers. So, once they were sufficiently confident, we were very happy for them to travel to these local schools to spearhead technical education sessions benefitting both staff and children there.”

The visiting sixth-formers first finessed the set-up of the printers and calibrated them, before moving on to instructing staff on best practice, introducing Computer-Aided Design (CAD) to the children, and helping the schools establish a CAD/3D-printing curriculum.

“The exercise was highly beneficial for these students, deepening their competence in using the technology, while also developing their personal confidence as they gave their presentation and fielded questions both from education professionals and from some very keen members of Years 5 and 6!

“The Technology department will look to continue to grow this partnership in the coming years, so that we develop the best opportunities for our A-level Product Design students, while at the same time helping local schools access and benefit from the type of technologies which have greatly enhanced the learning experience at Queen Elizabeth’s.”

Mr Noonan accompanied senior boys from Team Hybrid – one of four senior QE robotics teams to have taken part in last year’s international VEX robotics finals – to Monkton Hadley.

The Year 10 boys spoke to a mixed group of Year 5 and 6 children about their journey in robotics to date, detailing their achievements and what they have learned. They brought along the robot they are using in senior competitions this year, as well as the robot they used in the VIQC junior events.

“It was an opportunity to demonstrate the impressive capabilities of bespoke designed, programmable robotics. The primary school students were amazed by the technology on show, and particularly taken aback by the sheer scale of the effort put in by the team members as they strive for excellence,” said Mr Noonan.

The visiting QE team proudly displayed their award trophies and gave the younger pupils a glimpse of their design notebooks. They tantalised them with the prospect of one day competing themselves in the international VEX championships, which in non-pandemic years are normally held in the US. There was also an opportunity for the primary school children to test-drive the robots – an experience which left them “ecstatic”, Mr Noonan said.

“At the end of the session, the voting was unanimous: all present wanted to take up VEX in the following academic year (staff included!). QE will now look to host the school and others like it; we’ll start with a visit of our facilities and then eventually perhaps they could take part in the annual VEX competitions we now host, just as Lochinver House School did last term.”

After the visit, Julie Eyres, Head at Monken Hadley, wrote to QE’s Head of Technology, Michael Noonan to say how much the children had enjoyed the visit, adding that they were now keen for their school to acquire robotics equipment of its own!

The children from Monken Hadley gave their own account in their school newsletter: “These robots were amazing…[The QE boys] play in many different competitions; the robot they are using…is so cool. It has a small conveyor belt, where rings go up, and it also collects big circles with poles on them.”

Working with Mr Noonan on these partnership initiatives are Technology teachers Lauren Fagan and Stephanie Tomlinson, and Technology Assistant Kirsten Evans.

“It was great to see that our students emphasised the accessibility of robotics to both young men and women, thus highlighting the opportunities that exist for women in STEM careers,” Miss Tomlinson said.

  • Team Hybrid have applied for Vex Robotics Competition (VRC) Online Challenge Community Award and have created a video entry. They hope to be able to visit other primary schools in due course.