National engineering specialist SES Engineering Services and The Mount School in York have successfully hosted their 6th annual Hovercraft Day challenge yesterday (19th February), which aims to inspire young girls to become the next generation of female engineers.

The challenge invited more than 80 Year 6 girls from six local schools to design and build their own hovercrafts, before racing their creations in a knock-out tournament to determine the overall champion.

The students worked together in teams, alongside teaching staff and engineering PHD students from York University, to create fully-functioning hovercrafts powered by a leaf blower engine and capable of carrying one ‘pilot’ from each team along a short racing track.

At the end of the workshop, the hovercraft designs were judged by Rachel Schofield, Business Unit Co-ordinator – North, SES and following a thrilling race, the team from St Paul’s was presented with the winners’ trophy.

Rachel commented:

“The skills gap that is affecting the industry as a whole is even wider for women and we need to do everything we can to introduce more young girls to an engineering career.

“Many have preconceptions of what engineering means, without realising the scope for creativity and innovation that it brings. Initiatives like our Hovercraft Day are proven to help encourage young girls to consider STEM subjects later on and it was fantastic to see so many talented and creative girls rise to the challenge.”

Rachel Schofield
Business Unit Co-ordinator - North, SES

The leading engineering specialist has sponsored the event since its inception in 2013, which has seen over 520 girls take part so far and has been strongly supported by York MP and Shadow Minister for Transport, Rachael Maskell. This year, places were filled within three hours, proving the popularity of the event, with many previous attendees now studying STEM subjects at A-Level.

Rachael Maskell, MP for York Central and Shadow Minister for Transport, said of the event:

“Every year this event becomes more popular and I’m pleased to see that SES and The Mount School continue to take the lead in encouraging the next generation of female engineers.

“Engineering is a vastly diverse and rewarding sector and we desperately need more young people, particularly women, to pursue careers in this field. Sparking an interest in engineering from an early age is our best route to ensuring we have the skills in place to deliver future projects which will be so vital to supporting our economy.”

Rachael Maskell
MP for York Central and Shadow Minister for Transport

Adrienne Richmond, Principal, The Mount School, said:

“Spaces for our sixth Hovercraft Day filled within hours, showing the clear demand for events that give girls the opportunity to develop important skills such as leadership and communication. Most importantly, they can learn from female engineering role models like Rachel from SES, and PHD students who show that there is a real place for women in the engineering and science communities.

“As a girls’ school, The Mount provides an excellent educational setting for our students to thrive in STEM studies. For many girls attending SES’ Hovercraft Day, it’s their first time to learn in an all-girl setting and it’s wonderful, year on year, to watch their self-confidence grow throughout the day. We are so grateful to SES, York University and our local schools for their support in making this day a success and look forward to this event becoming even bigger and better in the future.”

Adrienne Richmond
Principal, The Mount School

Participating schools included Lord Deramore’s, The Mount Junior, Acomb Primary, St. Wilfrid’s, The Minster and St. Paul’s.