Junior STEAM Academy

In March 2020, ADM teamed up with Little Inventors for our inaugural programme. We set the young people of Greater Birmingham the challenge to come up with creative and innovative inventions to transform how we harness and use energy.

Year 5 pupils from Hillstone Primary School in Shard End each participated in this challenge to come up with innovative energy solutions. Following a couple of visits from staff at the JSA to Hillstone for an ideation session, Year 5 students visited the STEAMhouse facility. In an incredible day of collaborating and prototyping, students formed groups around shared ideas, and designed speculative inventions that each harnessed energy in new and exciting ways. They also got the chance to see the making facilities, talk to technicians and find out more about the sorts of jobs and roles designer makers have in innovation.

Two of these group ideas were specially selected to be developed into prototype inventions by the makers and technicians at STEAMhouse! The Hug Hub 5 is a litter picking robot, digesting rubbish, fuelled by solar energy collected with an adapted umbrella and mobilised by a wheeled base. The Hug Hub 5 also offers friendly neighbourhood hugs! Tidy Turtles, the other invention, trains and monitors turtles to collect rubbish from the ocean. Turtle backpacks also work to clean the water quality as they swim.

Featuring contributions from schools all across the Midlands, these prototypes were exhibited, alongside all of the entries at BCU Parkside. The project demonstrated the creative talent and innovative thinking of local young people.

Alongside this challenge and exhibition, the JSA are developing a KS2 STEAM manual that will detail the design thinking method that encourages a fluidity across subjects and that will map an example project across the curriculum. This manual will be a free resource we will distribute both locally and nationally.

The Junior STEAM Academy was developed in order to promote the STEAM learning ethos within primary education. Focussing on the subjects of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths, STEAM education is designed to help our children think across boundaries. At primary school there is less of a boundary between subjects with generalist teachers who are better placed to teach across the subjects than at secondary level.

Many schools have adopted topic-based learning, so you’ll learn about one subject, like bees from all different perspectives. When you’re doing fractions in maths, you calculate the amount of pollinating plants in a square metre for example. The JSA proposes that we take it one step further… that it becomes about the solving of a problem within that topic. So, learning about bees becomes, helping bees! This crucially gives the students the opportunity to do something with that they’ve learnt and to contribute to the solving of a tangible problem.

The children involved in the project responded enthusiastically to the opportunities and challenges they encountered on the Steamhouse making day. They worked together to make ambitious models that reflected each of their individual skills and interests. They were delighted to see their ideas on display at BCU. Everyone was impressed by the creativity and originality of the ideas the children developed.

The teachers involved expressed a desire to continue to work with BCU on this kind of curriculum development and were keen to learn how to apply Steam principles themselves to other topics. The STEAM Manual, currently being produced, will facilitate teachers to embed Steam working into projects of their own. The feedback received on the project has been extremely positive, Hillstone primary are now in the process of ‘steaming up’ all their topic led teaching across all levels.

City-wide submissions from young people

What is STEAM?