Scientists of the future get behind-the-scenes look at the Environment Agency

Luke Reynolds, Y13 Scientist, with Ollie Harris, Teacher of Chemistry
(Last Updated On: February 28, 2020)

Young scientists from Newton Abbot’s pioneering technical college discovered how the Environment Agency deals with extreme weather after it was announced that 136% of February’s average rainfall has already fallen.

Students from South Devon University Technical College (UTC) spent a day inside the impressive laboratories at the Environment Agency’s Starcross based office. Laboratory Manager Andy Parsons gave an informative introduction to the laboratories and gave the young scientists an insight into the Environment Agency’s flood prevention work.

With Devon having experienced more than a month’s rainfall in the first half of February alone, the students were interested in learning how the Environment Agency deals with such relentless weather. Donning their PPE clothing, science students from all year groups enjoyed tours of the laboratories and learnt about the sampling techniques used across the country to monitor the environment in which we live in. Taking place ahead of Women and Girls in Science Day, the trip aimed to encourage young people to consider a career in science.

Demonstrating what an education at South Devon UTC can achieve, ex-student Dylan Bayliss also met the group to discuss his role as an apprentice at the Environment Agency. The Year 10, 11 and 12 students heard about Dylan’s work in Organics and the sampling procedures and methods employed to maintain the high-quality rivers, water systems and coastline of the UK.

Luke Reynolds, a Year 13 Scientist at South Devon UTC, commented: “The Biology testing laboratories were really interesting to look around. I enjoyed learning about how they keep everything sterile using Bunsen burners and special equipment to ensure that there is no contamination. It’s very similar to the aseptic techniques I use in college laboratory work. The visit helped me understand how I could apply my science work to protecting the environment.”

As an official South Devon UTC employer partner, the Environment Agency helps shape the curriculum at the Newton Abbot school, providing Challenge projects and offering work experience to ensure South Devon UTC students are ready for work when they finish Year 13.

Andrew Parsons, Laboratory Site Manager at the Environment Agency, commented: “It was great to welcome a group of enthusiastic students from the UTC in Newton Abbot to the Environment Agency’s laboratory at Starcross, and show them how an operational laboratory functions. I hope that days like this will encourage them to take up a career in Science.”

Alison Hannah, Vice Principal at South Devon UTC, commented: “Students are engaged and motivated to extend their knowledge of the application of their classroom-based Science and Engineering learning to the real world. Visits to a working laboratory, that has such a significant influence on our daily lives, makes their studies both relevant and meaningful. This visit is one of many interactions our students have with our employer partners. We are very grateful to them as their work with our students has clearly helped them to develop their curiosity in and understanding of our environment.”

The pioneering college on Kingsteignton Road offers an innovative model of learning for students that provides professional academic and technical education aimed to ‘develop a new generation of engineers, scientists and environmentalists’. Unlike many other colleges, South Devon UTC has a higher proportion of its students studying triple science compared to the national average.

South Devon UTC is now recruiting students for the 2020/21 academic year. Young people with a flair for science and engineering due to start Year 10 or Year 12 in September 2020 are invited to the next open evening, which marks World Environment Day, on the 5th June 2020. Call 01626 240201 or visit http://southdevonutc.org/ to register your interest. Alternatively, the college hosts open mornings every Friday between 11:30 am and 12:30 pm. Please contact the college for more information.

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