HELENSBURGH’S close relationship with submarines goes back well over a hundred years – and it looks as if the enthusiasm for operating machinery under water isn’t going to go away any time soon.

Pupils from Hermitage Academy were among the winners in a new initiative, Subs In Schools, which was launched in 15 schools across Scotland last year by global education programme provider Engineering In Motion and the Royal Navy in a bid to promote STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects to young people.

The Academy’s team won the award for the competition’s best verbal presentation, while Kilpatrick School in nearby Clydebank won the Portfolio Award.

Both school teams have been presented with a specially commissioned coin by the Royal Navy, certificates and £500 STEM equipment gift vouchers.

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Three other schools submitted competition entries and were rewarded with £200 STEM gift vouchers.

And while Covid-19 severely impacted the scheduled live finals of the competition, with plans for students to showcase their vehicles in a pool falling victim to national restrictions, the hard work put in by the students building, testing and modifying their underwater vehicles, as well as producing portfolios of their work and developing a verbal presentation of their competition journey, was judged by an expert panel of engineers.

Hermitage Academy technical teacher Sandy Cameron said: “The students organised themselves into roles and worked together as a team, learning a lot along the way.

“They were very keen to complete the project and enjoyed the visit from the Royal Navy.

“A colleague, Jenny Ritchie, also worked with the boys and we both saw how SUBS in Schools inspired them. It was a practical, real life application of their STEM learning which brought it alive for them.”

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The programme gave participating pupils the chance to learn about complex engineering systems while building a remotely operated vehicle (ROV).

In the challenge, the vehicle is designed to complete a series of underwater tests including a speed challenge, object retrieval and an obstacle course.

Andrew Denford, founder and chairman of Engineering in Motion, said: “All the schools put in tremendous effort and persevered with the project despite all that is happening.

“This was a pilot competition and although we weren’t able to judge all the elements of students’ work, we’ve seen from their enthusiasm and the interest shown by other schools, that there is scope for us to roll-out an expanded programme next year.

“Subs in Schools is a novel cross-curricular initiative that uses underwater technology and marine engineering to inspire and engage with students, showcasing the exciting opportunities of a STEM career.

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“Congratulations to all the students who competed and particularly for our two winning teams.”

Commander Dave Pinder, the Royal Navy’s STEM lead for Scotland, said: “We were incredibly impressed with all of the school teams that took part in Subs in Schools and, in particular, the winners Hermitage Academy and Kilpatrick School.

“Our Royal Navy STEM representatives had the opportunity to spend time with some of the students last year and to review their work and give some pointers. Their enthusiasm and hard work was evident in their designs, presentations and portfolios.

“We hope that the competition has inspired the students to think about a future in a STEM-related field and that they build on the skills that they have gained during SUBS in Schools.”

Other partners in the initiative include ESP, EIM, the Institution of Engineering and Technology, Denford, IMarEST, Seafarers UK, UCL Mechanical Engineering, BMT Global, Qinetiq and the Sea Cadets.

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