Is the future of civil engineering Minecraft?
The open world building game has released an education package with road-building projects aimed at the next generation of UK civil engineers. The STEM learning package is a collaboration between Minecraft and National Highways.
Five games integrating with KS2 and KS3 plus a creative mode are available plus a range of lesson plans making the programme suitable for 7-14 year olds. The games offer a fun way for pupils to engage with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects, allowing young players to explore three proposed road schemes and make their own engineering decisions.
The announcement comes hot on the heels of Fitwilliam College's STEM SMART, aimed at helping state school pupils improve their A level results.
Inspiring the next generation
National Highways talent delivery lead Natalie Jones said the aim of the collaboration was to inspire the next generation of engineering talent by giving budding Dysons and Gilberts the opportunity to experience civil engineering projects first hand in a familiar virtual environment.
She said that the future of the UK's infrastructure could one day depend on young people who had engaged with the in-game activities in Minecraft. These include the opportunity to interact with three real-life proposed road schemes: the A303 at Stonehenge, the A428 Black Cat to Caxton Gibbet improvements scheme and the Lower Thames crossing.
Jones said the activities would give students first hand experience of just what's involved in digging a traffic bearing tunnel or building a load bearing bridge. These real-life structures are multi-million pound projects that are designed and built by experts. The Minecraft simulations will give pupils insight into all aspects of creating and maintaining a high-quality road network including reliability, performance and sustainability.
The in-game activities will help pupils learn about protecting and improving biodiversity and conserving British heritage for future generations. They'll also understand the role of new technology in road safety and the construction of one of the world's largest infrastructure projects.
Getting STEM SMART
For older students, the University of Cambridge has unveiled STEM SMART, a free 17 month programme designed to develop confidence and attainment in STEM subjects.
The three phase programme will concentrate on consolidating knowledge and building essential problem-solving skills, preparing students for university application and attaining strong exam results to support their future ambitions. High achieving year 12 and 13 students with an interest in STEM will be eligible for the free programme.
Students will have the opportunity to meet and work with Cambridge university undergraduates and tutors to find innovative solutions to STEM-related subjects. The scheme will give talented students the specific skills they need to pursue studies in science, technology, engineering and maths at high tariff universities. In addition STEM SMART will help to boost technology and innovation in the UK by addressing the STEM skills shortage.
But all budding engineers must start somewhere, and with the new Minecraft STEM related packages, younger students will be able to explore diverse careers as tunnel machine operators, engineers, ecologists, designers and more through learning about the exciting day to day challenges that a career in civil engineering involves.