The STEM Discovery Centre, based on the site of Airbus’s ExoMars Rover project in Stevenage, celebrated the launch of its new name with Space Saturday on 5 October - a sell-out family event which brought to life the wonders of space through a range of interactive activities.
For the first time, Bridget, the original prototype of the ExoMars Rover, was on display. Space Saturday also coincided with the start of World Space Week, the largest global space event with more than 5,000 events taking place in 80 countries around the world.
The STEM Discovery Centre, formerly known as the Airbus Foundation Discovery Space, is a unique education facility, developed in partnership with North Hertfordshire College, to inspire young people to consider a career in science, technology, engineering and maths.
Since the centre opened in May 2017 it has welcomed over 1,500 visitors and hosted around 200 primary and secondary schools. The new name marks the next phase in the centre’s development. The team of STEM experts at the facility plan to widen the range of educational activities available, which will include new online learning resources. Funded by the UK Space Agency, these innovative digital teaching tools are being developed in partnership with STEM Learning, the Centre for Life Sciences in Newcastle, Edinburgh Children’s Hospital and Mi3.
In 2017, Hertfordshire LEP invested £1.039m in the STEM Discovery Centre from the Local Growth Fund as part of its commitment to promote STEM subjects and create stronger links between employers and schools to help young people into training and employment.
The team is also encouraging employers from Stevenage’s world-class science and engineering hub to develop partnerships with them so they can share their knowledge and expertise in an educational setting.
Adrian Hawkins, Deputy Chair of the Hertfordshire LEP, said: “A central theme of the LEP’s draft Local Industrial Strategy is how we can create the right conditions to build a science corridor along the A1(m) and unlock the science-based cluster in the Golden Triangle of Oxford, Cambridge and London.
“Addressing skills shortages is essential if we are to succeed. The STEM Discovery Centre is an important part of our efforts to help inspire the next generation of scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians and bridge the skills gap between full time education and the workplace.”
Stevenage MP, Stephen McPartland, said: “Here in Stevenage we are fortunate to have a globally significant cluster of science and engineering industries on our doorstep. If we are going to maintain our competitiveness over the long term, we need to build a successful skills pipeline and engage young people at an early age.
“That is why the work of the STEM Discovery Centre matters and I would urge STEM-related employers in Stevenage to look at how they can support this fantastic enterprise and help develop the next generation of talent.”
Michelle Fearn, the STEM Discovery Centre Manager, said: “We are immensely proud of what we have achieved over the past two and a half years. We are one of the few dedicated STEM educational centres in the country and offer an imaginative, inspiring programme of events which has garnered brilliant feedback from the schools who have visited us.
“We are so excited as we embark on the next phase of our journey, and look to build our reputation as one of the best STEM education centres in the UK.