STEM @altoncollege

Alton College actively promotes STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). Science student Kate Willett, previously at The Petersfield School, was one of 300 students across the world to attend a special leadership course at the US Space & Rocket Center. In addition our Chemistry students are helping to shape the future of HE Science teaching and our Biology students have recently had their research published.

Kate, currently studying Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Maths participated in the Honeywell Leadership Challenge Academy at the US Space & Rocket Center alongside 300 other students from around the world. The unique leadership programme in Huntsville, Alabama attracted students from 38 countries and 33 US states and is a scholarship course which promotes STEM education and effective leadership skills.

The programme is run by Honeywell for children (between 16 and 18) of its employees, using interactive technology, science-orientated workshops and team exercises to teach leaderships skills in STEM. Workshops are run by scientists, engineers and former astronauts leading hands on challenges and team building exercises and sharing their first-hand professional experiences.

On her return from America she told us about her trip.

'The trip was an amazing experience as we got to take part in a range of activities including building rockets, completing a shuttle mission, using air-force fighter jet simulators, planning emergency aid situations, experiencing three times normal G-force and various team building exercises. There were students from over 30 different countries present which meant we all learnt a lot about differing cultural views and lifestyles. The programme has definitely helped me to become more confident in my own ability as a leader, and I am now more aware of how to work in an international setting. In the future I'd like to study Biomedical Science and the trip taught me about communicating with both large and small teams, and the importance of being able to do this in professional environment. I enjoyed the experience so much that I hope to apply to be a mentor for next year's Honeywell Leadership Challenge Academy.'

Kate is using the programme as the Residential section of her Gold Duke of Edinburgh award, and her team leader (Andy McCoy) wrote a short report about her work during the week: 'Kate attended HLCA as a member of Team Endurance. She has shown exemplary leadership skills, and performed all activities with diplomacy and tact. As the commander of the shuttle mission she was able to calmly solve all anomalies that were thrown at her, during the rocketry challenge she helped build a rocket to strict specifications, and she was a standout leader during the week. It was an honour to have her on Team Endurance and I know that she will do great things in the future.'

Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths subjects are actively encouraged and promoted at Alton College and students fundraised and worked on a marine biology expedition in 2013. Their hard work has been recently acknowledged in a science research paper from a Manatee research team in Cuba which has been recently published in the journal Oryx.

Alton College also maintains active links to STEM in Higher Education. The Chemistry department is one of a small number of schools/colleges chosen to work with Southampton Chemical Education Research (SoCER) group at the University of Southampton on an innovative research project to improve the future teaching of organic chemistry.

AS and A2 Chemistry students recently worked on a self-assessment exercise on organic chemistry reaction mechanisms, designed to be a challenging exercise which will help with AS and A2 revision. The students worked through a series of questions and then marked them using video mark schemes produced by the university. As part of the marking process, they had to reflect on their own learning and complete a survey for the Chemical Education Research group.