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Global LEGO competition helps build bright future for Cumbrian students

Carlisle FIRST LEGO League Champion’s Award winning team, Austin Friars, Carlisle

Final-year University of Cumbria student Teri Hardy has picked up a special award in recognition of the impact she has made on a growing global science and technology competition for children.

Royal Navy veteran Teri, 31, received her own trophy during the inaugural Carlisle regional final of the FIRST LEGO League challenge held at the university’s Fusehill Street campus.

A distinctive yellow brick trophy was given in recognition of the support biomedical sciences student Teri has given to Newlaithes Junior School, Carlisle, since the competition began last autumn.

FIRST LEGO League STEM ambassador Teri Hardy, biomedical sciences student, University of Cumbria

Not only did Teri, from Hull, approach the school’s leaders inviting them to take part. She has also been a STEM ambassador for pupils, visiting them at least twice a week and guiding them whilst they have designed a robot; identified and sought to tackle a real-life problem through science; and adopted the competition’s core values – discovery, innovation, impact, inclusion, teamwork and fun.

Mature student Teri continues to thrive during her final year of study, juggling demands of university with her life as a mother of two young children and working 25 hours a week.

Teri, who completed a college access course before embarking on her science degree, said: “The FIRST LEGO League competition has been an amazing thing to take part in. I was nervous when I first contacted the school. As the weeks have gone by, we’ve grown in confidence together.

“I’ve wanted to work with children for such a long time, so I’m delighted that I’ve been able to do it through this opportunity from the university. The university and its partners C-STEM and REACT Foundation have done so well in bringing this competition to so many schools and children across north Cumbria.”

She added: “I’m so proud of my pupils, not only of how well they’ve done in the competition but at how well they’ve gelled as a team. The battery on their robot Gary died the night before the final and so they’ve had to make another – Gary 2.0 – with a little more than an hour to go. They’ve ended up getting some of the highest scores.”

University of Cumbria student Teri Hardy (right) with her team from Newlaithes Junior School, Carlisle, at the FIRST LEGO League Carlisle final, University of Cumbria, Fusehill Street, Carlisle, 24 January 2020

100 pupils from 10 schools across Carlisle and Eden took part in the Carlisle FIRST LEGO League challenge. Trophies were presented to winners of several different categories and there was an award for the best overall team.

Austin Friars received the Champion’s Award and the team goes through to represent Carlisle in the UK final of FIRST LEGO League in Bristol at the end of February.

Michael Robinson, assistant head of junior school at Austin Friars, said: “It is wonderful that University of Cumbria has supported FIRST LEGO League. It would be great to get 20 teams involved next year. We’ve got big engineering companies in and around Carlisle, it would be great to get them involved too.”

Other winners were Appleby Primary School (project), High Hesket School (core values), Stanwix School (robot design).

Participating schools also included Castle Carrock; Fir Ends, Smithfield, Carlisle; Lime House, Dalston; Penruddock Primary; and Warwick Bridge Primary.

Nigel Smith, STEM co-ordinator at University of Cumbria, said: “FIRST LEGO League aims to encourage interest in real world themes and develop qualities such as leadership, confidence, teamwork and problem solving that are crucial for future careers, which resonate well with the aims of our courses at the university. We’re delighted too that FIRST LEGO League provides our students with an opportunity to become STEM ambassadors who work closely in collaboration with participating teams.”

FIRST LEGO League is the world’s largest STEM competition with 40,000 teams in more than 100 countries.

Cumbria now has more teams competing in the competition than any other part of the country, helping to inspire future generations of engineers and scientists.

Adopting a Team Cumbria approach, C-STEM and REACT Foundation have worked with partners including University of Cumbria and Institute of Engineering and Technology to help 80 teams of 9-16 year olds register for the 2020 competition.

Businesses and organisations supporting the inaugural Carlisle regional final have included Direct Rail Services, Sellafield Ltd, the RAF, Sensible IT Solutions, Story Contracting, The Idol, Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership and OpenWorks Engineering.

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