Energetic robot brings engineering to life for local schoolchildren

Engineering was brought to life for more than 100 young children at the launch of a book which aims to boost STEM learning in early years education.

Book launch

‘Engineering Your Future’ has been created by author Victoria Downes and illustrator Lorraine Hall in collaboration with South West Durham Training’s Senior Business Development Advisor Kirsty Lewton.

Complete with life-sized mascot Bolt the Robot Engineer, who features in the book, and a variety of STEM-related activities including coding robots, hydraulic robot arms and marble runs, the project aims to introduce the basic concepts of engineering to young learners.

It has been funded by the Department for Education as part of the North East Local Skills Improvement Plan to source engineering activities for primary school aged children on behalf of seven colleges across the North-East.

Using the book, mascot and other learning materials, school liaison teams at the colleges will link with their local primary schools to engage children as part of ongoing efforts to fill the engineering skills gap.

More than 100 nursery and primary school children attended a book launch last week at Bishop Auckland College, where Victoria read the story before our life-sized mascot, created by Berkshire-based firm Mascot Makers, bolted on to the stage to great excitement.

A photocall with their new hero was followed by an interactive STEM session and all the children left with a goodie bag with colouring sheets and engineering related activities, while each school received a free bundle of books with one signed copy.

Book cover

Victoria said: “It has been an exciting project to be a part of - I have loved working on the children’s book so much! I took my eight-year-old son George along to the book launch as he was the inspiration behind the front cover design. Lorraine’s illustrations really bring the story to life!”

Lorraine added: “It has been an absolute pleasure to work on this project. As an early years teacher, illustrating a children’s book is a dream come true. The book launch was a super day and was meticulously planned by Kirsty. Bolt of course was the star of the show – who wouldn’t love a life-sized dancing robot?”

Kirsty said: “I have really enjoyed working on this project, which has enabled my creativity to flourish. Seeing the excitement in the children’s faces makes it all worthwhile and I hope that Bolt will continue to bring a smile in the coming months and years.

“Bolt is already being booked out by other colleges, so he will be on his adventures across the region very soon. I hope that this initiative helps to create a future talent pipeline of engineers and help close the skills gap across the North-East.”

Pictured (l to r) are: Lorraine Hall, Bolt the Robot Engineer, Kirsty Lewton and Victoria Downes with children from Years 1 and 2 at Prince Bishops Primary School, Bishop Auckland.