Young engineers from South Devon UTC get creative at HMS Sultan

(Last Updated On: April 12, 2019)

Young engineers from Newton Abbot’s pioneering secondary school, South Devon University Technical College (UTC), went head-to-head against schools from across the country as they participated in a unique challenge set by the Royal Navy.

Hosted at HMS Sultan near Portsmouth, the Royal Navy Engineering Challenge saw young engineers design and build two remote-controlled vehicles, a land-based recovery vehicle capable of carrying a stranded helicopter and a ship that can transport it to safety.

Competing against over 70 teams from other UTC’s across the country, South Devon UTC entered two teams made up of students from Year 10 to 13. The young engineers had a scenario to follow. A volcano had erupted on an island and the inhabitants were being evacuated with help from the Royal Navy. After one of the helicopters suffered an engine failure, the engineers had to create a vessel and associated mobile recovery vehicle to recover the helicopter.
Students also had the opportunity to sample naval life aboard destroyer HMS Bristol in Portsmouth harbour and met local and national employers at the event.

Held in partnership with Eaton Ltd, Babcock and BAE Systems, the challenge aimed to encourage young people to consider a career in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM).

The Navy’s head of training and lead STEM co-ordinator, Commodore Andy Cree, said: “Today marks another hugely enjoyable milestone in the Royal Navy’s annual challenge and my congratulations go to those who completed it. Our most complex challenge to date brought together elements of additive manufacture and robotics in real-world conditions and it was fascinating to see over 70 teams across three age groups competing to solve the same problem, with shared learning all round.”

As an official South Devon UTC employer partner, the Royal Navy 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.

Principal Claire Plumb commented: “It was exciting to watch our budding engineers take part in the Royal Navy Engineering Challenge this year. As one of the most challenging tasks yet, both of our teams used their passion and drive to give the challenge their all and we’re really proud of them. It’s important for us that our young engineers, scientists and mathematicians take part in challenges such as this regularly as it gives them the opportunity to put their skills into practice in what could be a real-life situation.”

Claire continued: “As one of our employer partners, the Royal Navy helps us to shape the curriculum and even delivers one of the modules in our BTec Level 3 Diploma in Engineering syllabus. With their direct involvement, it makes the curriculum much more interesting and enjoyable, as well as potentially opening up career opportunities either in the sector or with the Royal Navy.”

Ash Brimicombe, 19, is a South Devon UTC student who aspires to be a Marine Engineering Officer, Sub-Class Submariner (MEOSM) with the Royal Navy. Ash was recently invited on a tour of a Trafalgar Class Nuclear Submarine in HMNB Devonport and got the opportunity to meet two submariners.

Ash commented: “I came away from the day feeling that it was such an honour to experience this. No-one else gets to see or do this. It cemented my decision to join the Royal Navy. My engineering teacher at the UTC, Mr Stephen Green, was a weapons engineer for surface fleet. His reflections on his Navy life inspired me to take a look at the career pathways in the forces but particularly in the Royal Navy.”

The college is currently recruiting students for the 2019/20 academic year. Young people with a flair for science and engineering due to start Year 10 or Year 12 in September 2019 are invited to the next open evening on Wednesday 5th June 2019, 5pm-7pm. Call 01626 240201 or visit to register your interest.

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