By Jane Osbourn, Cambridge Site Leader and Vice President of R&D, AstraZeneca
AstraZeneca has long been passionate about inspiring the next generation of scientists through support for, and engagement with, science education in our local communities.
As a major Cambridgeshire employer and, building on our extensive involvement in STEM initiatives in Cambridge, we have launched the Energy Challenge, a competition for primary schools throughout the county. It is the largest community-focused STEM initiative that we have undertaken, and we are really excited to see how enthusiastically the children are engaging with it.
The Energy Challenge encourages creativity, investigation and discovery, all of which form the basis for scientific learning, and which can be key skills for pursuing further study or a career in STEM.
All participating schools have been given a mechanical balance in order to run their Energy Challenge experiments. Using the mechanical balances, students are scientifically exploring concepts such as energy density in different foods and are learning how to use scientific scales to measure a range of weights generated from their calculations. As the Energy Challenge is focussed on food and energy, in the form of kilojoules, there is a direct connection to every- day life and the foods that the children are eating. It’s about having fun, whilst working scientifically.
Key to the successfully delivery of a science competition on such a large scale is the involvement of nearly 100 employees who have volunteered their time to be an Energy Challenge mentor. Each mentor is guiding their assigned school through the Challenge, offering expertise and support to students and teachers as they work to prepare their Energy Challenge poster submission.
First visits by AstraZeneca has already taken place, and their impact was summed up beautifully by a Year 5 pupil from Robert Askell Primary School who said: “I don’t normally enjoy science, but this was good because it was real, with real scientists!”.
Which just goes to show the importance of initiatives like the Energy Challenge and the difference which can be made by companies and organisations, when they invest in future generations who will be the scientists of tomorrow.