Students help ‘Secret Agents’ as part of QinetiQ’s STEM Outreach Programme

Sean Ngo, High Powered RF Engineer, Weapons Technologies

Have you solved encrypted puzzles to reveal a secret message? Have you ever been a secret spy, searching for valuable information? And have you created a robot which can find its way through a ventilation shaft? Well, these are just a few things that secondary school students had to complete in a four-day Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) course in electronic engineering, held at Portsmouth University this year.

Employees from QinetiQ and GCHQ worked with the Smallpeice Trust and Portsmouth University to create a secret agent-themed course, code name ‘Temperamental turtle’. In teams of five, students were assigned a range of tasks, with the aim of giving them an insight into the sort of work that QinetiQ and GCHQ get up to.

In the task code-named ‘Shrieking Llama’, students were given the materials and tools to build a beam detector. ‘Vigilant Degu’ involved students decrypting a message made up of a group of symbols by using ‘keys’ placed around the university campus. Using the keys, the students then had to switch, rotate or move the symbols using their own initiative to fully recover the message. For ‘Cunning Hamster’, the students learnt basic electronic principles and were tasked to create an electronic circuit which would eventually become a line-following robot which ‘infiltrated the enemy base via its ventilation shafts’.

The students had to present their achievements at the end of the course. As well as team work and organisation, they pupils also learnt problem solving and analytical skills. They left with a greater knowledge about QinetiQ and GCHQ, and their respective apprentice and graduate programmes, and a set of skills to help them in school and beyond. What really impressed the QinetiQ team was that while most of the students had no background in electronics they were able to build a robot for the ‘Cunning Hamster’ task within just two days.

Overall, being a STEM Ambassador is really rewarding and fun. I’m given the opportunity to work with young people and know that students, given the chance to participate in STEM activities, stand a better chance of making a more informed decision about pursuing a STEM career.

Find out more about QinetiQ’s STEM Outreach Programme

 

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