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First STEM Fair in Thorpe Park shows 1,800 students the thrill of science

Robots, mind control and VR rollercoasters demonstrate spectrum of science and tech careers opportunities

Middlesex University partnered with Thorpe Park to offer a pioneering two-day STEM Fair for school students from 26-27 April. Some 1800 students from 71 schools and colleges attended - the first schools event on this scale that Thorpe Park has programmed with a University.

Twenty-two interactive exhibits showcased the application of maths, science and technical subjects to working in a theme park, among a wide range of other careers. Activities on offer included:

● The Loco ride: Middlesex's thrillingly realistic VR rollercoaster
● Controlling a Scalextric car and a "meditation mirror" with your thought patterns through an EEG headset
● Exploring terraforming by creating landscapes with sand, a projector and a 3D scanner
● Taking selfies with compliant robot Baxter and jiving with humanoid robot Pepper

The event was organised by Debbie Jedwab, Senior Lecturer in Product Design and Professor Mehmet Karamanoglu, Head of the Design, Engineering and Mathematics Department, and supported by a team of over 80 Middlesex staff and students across all departments in the Science and Technology Faculty including Creative Technology, Games Design, Virtual Reality, Mathematics, Natural Sciences, Sports and Exercise Science and many others. Professor of Creative Industries at Middlesex University Brendan Walker, well known for his appearances on the BBC as a "thrill engineer", and a designer of rollercoaster rides at Thorpe Park and elsewhere, was at the Fair on Thursday 26 April.

Following the Fair, Thorpe Park is offering placements to Middlesex students studying STEM subjects. James Chegwin, Brand Manager: Education & Trade at Thorpe Park said, “In partnership with Middlesex University, we are really excited to launch our very first STEM Fair that welcomes all schools that wish to educate students about hundreds of exciting and varied career paths – including many that are found here at the Park. We’re looking forward to welcoming Middlesex’s own students to our team on work experience where they will find out how important the roles of our engineers are in making our business a successful one”.

"Science is a big part of the world and I intend to leave my mark on society: I would like to carry on with fixing cars and the theory side to science. From my experience today, I am going to try to find out more about physics and how things are programmed”.

Sanjana Bhola, student at Cranford School

One pathway that students whose dream job is working in an amusement park might take is Middlesex University’s coursework-assessed Creative Technology MA/MSc. The course is deeply collaborative, enabling full use of the state-of-the-art broadcasting studios, digital image processing workshops and digital publishing suite in the University’s Art, Design and Media building, and focused on creating projects, including to real industry briefs.

Course Leader Magnus Moar said, “Graduates from the MA/MSc in Creative Technology take a variety of career paths, from becoming entrepreneurs to games developers to academics. Career prospects are good upon graduation. Employers have included Sony, Accenture’s design consultancy Fjord, Verdant, VRGE, and the designer and engineer Moritz Waldemeyer .One of our recent graduates has appeared in Forbes Africa’s 30 under 30 after winning an entrepreneurship award from Virgin and the British Council.”

Debbie Jedwab said: “It was fantastic to see so many excited school kids engaged and interacting with our exhibits, which were run so expertly by staff and students alike. I was especially pleased to see Creative Technology showcased in public for the first time and this was a great experience for our post-graduate students to meet the public. Showcasing our courses within Thorpe Park, at the heart of the entertainment industry, was the perfect match, as careers in this field are expanding rapidly and will continue to expand. ”

Sanjana Bhola from Cranford School has developed an interest in science and engineering through helping her father with his job repairing cars. Her trip to Thorpe Park was her first time going on a rollercoaster; she enjoyed the experience, she said afterwards. “The virtual reality rollercoasters look and feel very real  and it is very interesting as you can look around yourself on the ride" she said. "Science is a big part of the world and I intend to leave my mark on society: I would like to carry on with fixing cars and the theory side to science. From my experience today, I am going to try to find out more about physics and how things are programmed”.

Professor Mehmet Karamanoglu said, “We are delighted to partner with Thorpe Park to deliver a superb event to nearly 2,000 students, raising awareness about STEM subjects offered at Middlesex”.

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