NETPark Connector Project
NETPark - the North East Technology Park at Sedgefield, County Durham - is the fastest growing science park 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 clubsessions, themed days, and special projectsthat 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 workshopsincluding 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 below.
The 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 have 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."