Awesome Wheels set to inspire young engineers

25 Jun 2009 11:04:00.000


Using jelly and eggs to see vehicle safety features absorb energy in collisions, icing and liquids to learn about aerodynamics and viscosity, and finally by designing a futuristic bus, 400 schoolchildren from eight local schools will see transportation engineering and science in action at Heanor Gate Science College today, Thursday, June 25.


This will be a ‘transition day’ with a difference for Year 6 pupils from local schools due to join Year 7 at Heanor Gate College next term. Called ‘Awesome Wheels’, it is the first day of its kind themed to inspire more young people to study engineering at university and pursue careers as engineers.


Staff and students from The University of Nottingham’s Faculty of Engineering led by the Faculty’s Science Communicator Janice Yelland-Sutcliffe will all take part in Awesome Wheels alongside teachers and pupils from Heanor Gate and its feeder schools and representatives from regional bus operator Trent Barton, which is sponsoring the event through the TH Barton Innovation Fund.

Click here for full story

Thursday’s transport theme will create multi-skilled teams of Year 6 and 7 pupils formed into tutor groups at the start of the day with older pupils from Year 9 and Year 10. Each member of the team will participate in at least one of the interactive workshops before coming together in the final session to share their expertise and contribute to designing a visionary sustainable bus.


Trent Barton’s sponsorship has been provided through the TH Barton Innovation Fund, launched last year by the Barton family and The University of Nottingham to celebrate the centenary of Barton Buses. Founder Thomas Henry Barton studied engineering at University College Nottingham in the 1890s and was one of the first people in the country to work with diesel engines.


Awesome Wheels marks the culmination of ‘Awesome Athletes’, a four-year project based in the Institute of Biomechanics at The University of Nottingham and supported by the University’s Centre for Integrative Learning. Project coordinator Janice Yelland-Sutcliffe won a 2008 Lord Dearing Award for Contributions to Teaching and Learning.


Awesome Athletes has brought the science and engineering of movement into primary schools — in particular, through one-day whole school events — by providing a range of services across the curriculum for schools, teachers and trainees developing and delivering primary education. The Awesome Athletes toolkit, which encourages pupils to think about engineering through movement of humans, animals and machines, is now in use in schools across the country. All activities form the basis of a range of future programmes.


“This collaborative approach is just one of many innovative features of the day and a celebration of partnerships across the University and beyond,” said Janice Yelland-Sutcliffe. “Maggie Ambrose, Manager of the Centre for Integrative Learning, and her colleague Dr Geoff Baker, the Centre’s Academic Advisor, will both be there tomorrow to take part. Jan Bradshaw, Head of Transition at Heanor Gate Science College and a design and technology teacher there, has been a great supporter of this event. Everyone has been incredible.”


This week’s Awesome Wheels event follows ‘Awesome Athletes’ workshops at each of the feeder schools — Breadsall, Coppice, Horsley Woodhouse, Howitt, Loscoe, Morley, Mundy, and Smalley — reaching around 1,500 pupils. Primary school teachers were given preparation at a training event in May. Funding and support from the University’s Centre for Integrative Learning enabled students to be involved and backing from the TH Barton Innovation Fund paid for teaching cover to enable schoolteachers to take part.


Andrew Wright, Development Officer from the University, said: “The TH Barton Fund was established last year by The University of Nottingham as part of celebrations marking Barton PLC's centenary year. The new charitable fund supports outreach work within the University's Faculty of Engineering, and includes a range of activities for both primary and secondary schoolchildren on campus and in our local schools.


“Although the bus part of Barton PLC was acquired by Trent in 1989, Trent Barton remains proud of its company’s origins and Chairman Brian King was enthusiastic about supporting an event focused on sustainable transportation through the TH Barton Fund. Their support for the Innovation Fund is invaluable.”


For several University of Nottingham engineering and science students, this event will let them showcase their projects communicating their subjects to children, as well as developing teaching resources that can be used again and again. Three of the engineering undergraduates will explain the work they’ve been doing on road safety technologies.


In preparation for the day, Jon Watson, from Nottingham Transportation Engineering Centre (NTEC) at the University, and Chris Fearick, from Heanor Gate College, collaborated on creating a ‘bowling alley’ out of different kinds of road surface.


A number of other academics, postgraduates and recent students will form part of a team of over 60 (including teachers from Heanor Gate and all the schools) supervising and giving demonstrations. 


Everton Blake, Undergraduate Laboratory Supervisor from the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, who has been nominated for the Royal Society’s 2010 Hauksbee Awards for excellence in supporting science, technology, engineering and mathematics, will be there as will Gary Smith, Group Leader of Engineering IT Support. Sarah C Pierce, Science Outreach Project Coordinator from the School of Biology, will also be there; and recent Classics graduate Ann Trenchard, has been Janice’s Assistant Events Coordinator in the final stages of coordinating this event.


— Ends —


Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 100 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THE) World University Rankings.


More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to RAE 2008, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranks the University 7th in the UK by research power. In 27 subject areas, the University features in the UK Top Ten, with 14 of those in the Top Five.


The University provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's “only truly global university”, it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation — School of Pharmacy), and was named ‘Entrepreneurial University of the Year’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2008.


Nottingham was designated as a Science City in 2005 in recognition of its rich scientific heritage, industrial base and role as a leading research centre. Nottingham has since embarked on a wide range of business, property, knowledge transfer and educational initiatives ( in order to build on its growing reputation as an international centre of scientific excellence. The University of Nottingham is a partner in Nottingham: the Science City.

Story credits

More information is available from Janice Yelland-Sutcliffe, Awesome Athletes Project Coordinator & Science Communicator in the Faculty of Engineering, on +44 (0)7787 543503,; or Ann Trenchard, Assistant Awesome Wheels events coordinator, on +44 (0)7903 814782. For information on the TH Barton Innovation Fund, contact Development Officer Andrew Wright on +44 (0)115 951 3664,
Simon Butt

Simon Butt - Media Relations Manager

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 982 32353 Location: University Park

Additional resources

No additional resources for this article

Related articles

School pupils see life in the lab

Published Date
Wednesday 8th December 2010

The exciting side of science

Published Date
Tuesday 3rd March 2009

Scientia est potentia — knowledge is power

Published Date
Tuesday 31st March 2009

England cricket star visits sports camp

Published Date
Friday 24th July 2009

Media Relations - External Relations

The University of Nottingham
C Floor, Pope Building (Room C4)
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 5798