Plockton and Portree pupils prove bright sparks in STEM sessions

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More than 500 pupils from Plockton and Portree high schools and their associated primary schools are taking part in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) sessions.

Between August and November, the Science Skills Academy (SSA) has been delivering 36 hands-on practical STEM sessions, called Newton Modules, to P6-S2 classes during the inaugural tour of its ‘pop-up’ Newton Room.

The final two legs of the tour saw the pop-up Newton Room hosted at An Crùbh on the Sleat Peninsula last week before returning to Portree Shinty Club on Tuesday of this week where it will remain until November 16.

Primary pupils have taken part in the robotics and mathematics Newton Modules where they have investigated different ways of estimating, calculating and measuring distance and then use LEGO Mindstorms robots to assess their accuracy.

Secondary pupils have explored electricity generation and renewable energy sources via the Renewable Energy Newton Module.

SSA is a partnership project led by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) as part of the Inverness and Highland City Region Deal.

It aims to inspire more young people to become interested in STEM, encourage them to study these subjects at school and beyond, and raise awareness of the wide range of STEM careers available in the Highlands and Islands.

The Highland Newton Room Network has been created by the SSA in locations across the region including Thurso and Fort William, which both opened in 2019.

The pop-up approach replicates the experience of visiting a Newton Room, with portable furniture and equipment and a dedicated member of staff to deliver Newton Module activities.

The pop-up Newton Room has been hosted at various locations across Skye and Lochalsh including Achmore, Dunvegan and Staffin.

Emma Robertson, SSA project manager at HIE, said: ‘One of the fundamental principles of the SSA is to ensure that all young people aged 10-14 years, in every part of the region gets equal access to inspiring STEM activities.

‘We are delighted, after a challenging 18 months, to now trial our pop-up Newton Room model with schools in the Skye and Lochalsh area.

‘We have already delivered sessions to Skye pupils at the Skye Camanachd Shinty Club in Portree, Staffin Community Hall and Dunvegan Community Hall, and to all P6-S2 pupils from Lochalsh schools when the pop-up was hosted at Stromferry and Achmore Village Hall. We have had a great response from pupils and teachers.’

Katie Wight, teacher at Bun-Sgoil Shlèite, added: ‘We are delighted that our pupils in Slèite have been given this learning opportunity and we hope that there will be more of it in the future.

‘The pupils got to use the technology and experience programming as well as robotics in a combination of fun activities. Scott was fantastic with the pupils and there were enough resources for all children to actively engage in activities.’

The partnership project is delivered by the SSA and is led by HIE with £3m from the Scottish Government. The funding is part of the £315 million Inverness and Highlands City Region Deal, which is funded by the Scottish and UK Governments and regional partners.-