NETPark - the North East Technology Park at Sedgefield, County Durham - is one of the fastest growing science parks in the UK, supporting a range of new companies that are developing innovative technology and products including printable electronics, photonics and nanotechnology.
The NETPark Connector project aimed to embed innovation and raise aspirations in local communities using NETPark as a focus to build partnerships between the community, education, and businesses. The three year project was a joint initiative between Durham University and the County Durham Development Company.
The project included a range of workshops, after-school club sessions, themed days, and special projects that highlight career pathways and centre on real-world science, technology and innovation, including DNA, forensics, smart materials and electronics as well as business planning and transferrable skills development. Additional special events, challenges and a business to school website offered further opportunities to get involved.
Example activities included:
Hands-on smart materials workshops and projects, involving experimentation, product design and mentoring.
Full on futures are student researched and organised science careers events.
A science and technology careers filming project.
Forensics investigation project where students are challenged to analyse a crime scene and the evidence.
Teacher CPD events on smart materials, dialogue, and active learning.
Science festivals run by local communities for local communities.
Hands-on family learning workshops including science and art and future fashions.
STEM: Which Branch Will You Grow From?
As part of the project a team of students from Framwellgate School in Durham were commissioned to create an inspiring DVD about STEM careers aimed at young people. The students worked with mentors and were trained to use camera equipment, conduct an interview, direct, produce and edit the film.
The resulting film 'STEM: Which Branch Will You Grow From?' can be viewed by following link in the sidebar.
Full on Futures
Full on futures projects involved young people developing unique career events for their peers.
'Boom 11' was the result of the hard work and dedication of twenty one Year 9 students from Our Lady & St Bede and Grangefield Schools in Stockton. Their event exposed 400 young people to future employment opportunities that will be influenced by science, creativity and innovation, and included a fire-breathing dragon, TV production workshops and science cookery. This project was a partnership between Durham University and the NETPark Connector Project, Creative Partnerships and the ARC, Stockton.
The Techno Roadshow also resulted from the enthusiasm of seven young people, from Tanfield School. Over 650 young people from across Derwentside attended their event which included a DNA workshop delivered by one of the organising team and Durham University PhD students. Thirty six companies were involved including P&G, the NHS and STEMNET. Derwentside Enterprise worked with us to produce the event. The Techno Roadshow showreel can be viewed by following the link in the sidebar
The NETPark Connector Project, which came to an end in June 2012, proved to be a spectacular success. Durham University’s contribution to the project alone managed to engage nearly 22,000 people, with well over 2,500 of them spending more than six hours working with us. A key element of the project was developing partnerships between the University and groups across our region. More than 400 individuals established links with the University that we intend to maintain.
At the end of the project a formal evaluation was carried out by the independent Rocket Science consultancy. The evaluation shows the project had comfortably exceeded its numerical targets, easily achieving all its goals and in many cases far exceeding them.
Their report concludes: "Our view is that the project will have a lasting impact – in terms of the resources and insights provided for teachers, the development of new working relationships, and raising the interest of young people in the intrinsic fascination and relevance of science and innovation."
The Embedding the Benefits of Innovation Project was part financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), managed by the Department for Communities and Local Government, securing £0.49m ERDF investment. The ERDF Competitiveness Programme 2007-13 brough over £300m into the North East to support innovation, enterprise and business support across the region.