An Education In Innovation – School Pupils Inspired At Teen Tech

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Words by students from Loreto College and Siobhan O’Toole

Teen Tech came to the city this Wednesday, facilitated by a collaboration between The University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University. The event was designed to enlighten year 9 pupils and encourage them towards potential career paths.

The day kicked off with a ‘remote controlled’ presentation from founder and CEO of Teen Tech, Maggie Philbin, who interacted with the pupils in an extremely entertaining fashion using electronic questionnaires. She engaged well with the pupils by maintaining a lively and enthusiastic approach. When asked on the typical gender of scientists, the majority of students thought male, and when asked to draw their perception of a scientist, most depicted cartoon-like caricatures of men in glasses and white coats. A grand total of three pictures presented female scientists.

The day was structured around three ‘zones’, which all presented different areas of science, technology and engineering in stimulating, entertaining ways.

The ‘Insight Zone’ focused on the ideas and inventive natures of the pupils themselves, allowing them to express their thoughts and opinions, and discuss – or argue about – their own creative innovations. As most of the pupils at this event were no older than fourteen years old it was incredibly eye-opening for them to spend time with successful web and app designers.

The pupils were challenged to design their very own app, something which the children very much engaged with. Ideas ranged from music apps, games apps, and apps which made many onlookers think, ‘why didn’t I think of that?!’ Most pupil-created apps were centred on social interaction and utilities designed to make their lives easier. One pupil even came up with the idea of an ‘Agony Aunt’ app, which was designed to help the user with everyday problems they might encounter.

The sheer number of students who were willing to share their ideas was startling. Ideas were thrown back and forth across tables in an encouragingly excitable manner.

At the beginning of the day, when asked whether they wanted a career in science and technology, the students were quick to dismiss the idea, whereas at the end of the session most were very open to a career in the field of science and technology.

Later, in the ‘Innovation Zone’, students eagerly gathered around, an app designing company who created the app which allows the individual to listen to, and discover, new music according to their mood, location or even the weather. The year nine students interacted well with the touch screens provided to display the app, and showed a keen interest in the idea.

Described as ‘a story within a playlist’, the representatives from, from Toronto, met at the University of Manchester and came together to form the company through their shared love of discovering music.

Students were fascinated by the technology behind the concept, asking how the app ‘knows what the current weather is’ and even if the app was ‘available to buy on an iPhone’.

A particularly popular topic discussed among the students was the company’s slogan ‘#itfeelsright’. The experienced app designers took this opportunity to promote their social networking sites to the year nines, who found this connection between social media and the app exciting and well linked.

The ‘Challenge Zone’ engaged pupils in the more mechanical side of technology and science, ranging from soapbox derby carts, to robotic repair bots. Students were introduced to GreenPower, a Formula-One type cart, which was electrically powered and created with recycled materials. The workshop looked into the theory and practical side of putting together a car, its dimensions and how it works.  Mr Ford, an ambassador for GreenPower, said,

‘The carts cost around £2,300, which are brought into schools. They are then directed on how to construct the cart and then, in classes, have the children build the carts from recycled materials. At Teen Tech, we have a drawing, which instructs the kids on where to put certain parts of the cart’.

Enthusiastically, students took nuts and bolts, attaching wheels to the chassis of a cart. This gave a constructional insight into a green, recyclable way of creating moving transport.

The ‘Innovation Zone’ gave an insight into the more formal, technical and science based areas. There was a selection of stalls from industry professionals ranging from the BBC, NHS, GOOGLE, JVC and IBM where students experienced the technology first hand.

BBC Academy demonstrated how an invisibility cloak is used in TV and film. The students were surprised to find out that this was the very same method used to create the invisibility cloak in the Harry Potter film franchise. Here they realised that science and technology could be used in a creative manner. Colin Edwards, a representative from BBC Academy said, ‘The students loved this activity – some even thought they were invisible! It’s all a thought process really’.

Students then gathered at The  Dalton Nuclear Institute stall, from the University of Manchester, to solve puzzles and watch different experiments take place. We spoke to Phil from the skills team who explained ‘It’s a really great opportunity for school children to understand a bit about the subject’.

After an exciting day, the students came together to reflect on how their perceptions had changed. At the start of the day the majority of students were overwhelmingly disinterested in any form of science or technology, by the end, however, they had a broader concept of what these fields were about and were now attracted to taking a career towards science and technology in the future.


Words and Photographs are a collaborative effort of students from Loreto College: Daniel Amadi, Lucy Fegan, Charles Hanratty, Rosie Steadman and Talith Walker, with the support of MMU Student Press Officer, Siobhán O’Toole.

The Loreto College students are all studying A-Level English and are currently looking into prospective university courses, including broadcast journalism and media studies. Wish them luck!

About the author / 


aAh! Magazine is Manchester Metropolitan University's arts and culture magazine.

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