Picture the scene: a large exhibition hall the size of four football pitches is inundated with children, teachers, sponsors and the media.
The children have come to learn about science. They can talk to one robot and programme another; they can learn about the physics of the free kick and the can make ‘intelligent’ bacteria; they can learn about the science of sleep and the sustainability of the eco-classroom.
The sponsors and the media are here to promote STEM, which stands for Science Technology, Engineering and Maths. The event is the ‘Big Bang’ fair, the finals of the National Science and Engineering Competition 2016.
There is a boy in a wheelchair who has come for the day. He cannot see up, over or through the crowds which congregate at each display stand. His grandmother can sense his frustration and irritation because he feels excluded.
Then they stumble across a 14 foot chrome vehicle (looking a lot like a 1929 Ford Sedan Delivery – think 1920s Chicago) with a particularly low chassis and huge rear wheels. The hydraulic wing doors open and the boy is invited to move from his wheelchair to the driver’s seat. His face, lights up, of course.
‘This car is for you’. He is told. ‘It has been built so that people in wheelchairs can take part in a really good hobby – hot rod racing.’
‘And it’s built entirely from scrap and recycled materials’, said another one. So it’s also ‘eco- friendly!’
The boy is more interested in the fact that the 4 speed transmission is automatic and electronically controlled and that, as he learns, he is peering out over a Lexus LS400 engine and sitting just in front of the adapted axle of a 1969 Jaguar XJ.
Still grinning, the boy gets back into his wheelchair and pledges that he is going to come to a particular hot rod convention in the summer to learn more about his new interest and possible hobby.
This particular boy’s new found aspiration was made possible by the good work of the OSH Stem team: Rogan, Stuart and Ethan. You might have seen them on national television this morning. In just over three months they built, from scrap, a hot rod for a disabled driver. Rogan’s brother, David, was the inspiration for this project.
Many congratulations to them all and many thanks to their friends, families and teachers for their support and inspiration. They are now the UK’s Young Engineers of 2016. National champions, no less. They are now about to go onto Radio 4 and will be at the NEC on Saturday with their car for the ‘Winners’ Celebration’. More news will follow!