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IBM's Blue Fusion inspires students as part of National Science and Engineering Week

HURSLEY, U.K. - 21 Mar 2014: More than 360 students from nearly 60 schools across the South of England celebrated National Science and Engineering Week at IBM's annual Blue Fusion event hosted at Europe’s largest software development facility, IBM Hursley. The school children needed to use quick thinking, scientific knowledge and teamwork to complete a number of fun activities, designed to inspire and encourage the 14 and 15 year-olds to develop their interest in Science, Technology and Engineering.  

The series of one day events, starting on Monday 17th March and finishing on the 20th, were organised by IBM volunteers, many of whom are part of the IBM Graduate and Industrial Placement Programme. Blue Fusion has been run for 18 years and, due to increasing popularity, this year IBM invited even more schools. To maximise the educational benefits, teachers are also encouraged to follow up with classroom exercises that build on the themes explored.

Charlie Dunford, Director of Science at Carisbrooke College said: "We use this event as a reward for students who participate in our Science, Engineering, Technology and Mathematics (STEM) after-school clubs.  It's an amazing place to bring our students, and adds emphasis to what we are teaching. It also inspires us as teachers in running our own STEM activities."

"We left the Isle of Wight at 6.30am and consider it a trip well worth making. The level of follow-on interest from the students in staggering. We can't find this level of enthusiasm anywhere else."

Rebecca Sheen, Transition Manager at Southlands School added: "We come to this event, not only because it has educational value, but because it's great fun for the students. It enriches what we can offer as a Specialist School for boys with Asperger Syndrome. It supports their learning and understanding of careers, giving them an insight into IBM. We enjoy meeting a variety of IBM employees and hear first-hand how they came to join IBM. This opens the students eyes to the variety of careers and routes to those careers."

This year's new set of activities for the students were:

Alien Nation
Cogs, gears and sound waves – for this hands-on activity the teams developed their logical thinking and problem solving. Students used their knowledge of sound waves to control the Phase, Strength and Frequency of a wave in order to find a match. Using their logical reasoning skills, teams will cracked a code, giving them access to the ‘alien's space craft’. 

Teams explored the effects of their actions through time in a virtual town-building exercise. In pairs, students in the past needed to increase their population, the students in the present needed to expand their economy and the students in the future needed to ensure they were sustainable and environmentally friendly. Could teams draw on their planning and forward thinking in order to meet all objectivesω

Clean Commuter
In a simulation exercise, students were challenged to plan the shortest route from their start location to the delivery destination in order to quickly deliver goods and reduce their impact on the environment.

Lost in Space
A computer-game which explored Physics concepts such as momentum, gravity, elements and their mass.  ‘Lost in Space’ saw students aiding a stranded space craft to reach its home planet by travelling through wormholes.

Mine, Robot
Teams competed for the title in ‘Mine, Robot’.  They applied Artificial Intelligence to small robot mining vehicles, designed to tunnel through the surface of a planet in order to acquire specific resources. After a dry run, all Blue Fusion teams were pitted against one another to try and collect the most resources in a big-screen finale.

Space Station Creation
Unexpected events added surprise to a  virtual simulation, in which teams were tasked with building and maintaining a space station orbiting Earth. Using time management, planning, observation and quick reactions, the teams created the best station with the resources available to them.

Hugh Proudman, IBM Program Director for Information Management Development and who has been the sponsor for Blue Fusion since 2008 said: "I find it enormously rewarding to work alongside the organising team, and see them create activities that truly engage and inspire students. Every year, the students that attend have great fun and extend their understanding of Science and Engineering."

About IBM Hursley's Community Programmes

In 1958, IBM took ownership of Hursley House and the surrounding grounds. Over the past 50 years, the Hursley Laboratory has continued a commitment to corporate citizenship that dates back to IBM’s founding; encouraging employees to take part in charitable events locally, within the wider community and even internationally.

This timeless site plays host to a range of programmes to engage school-aged children in Science, Maths, Technology and Engineering subjects. By engaging talent at an early age and encouraging prolonged study in industry related subjects, IBM continues to employ expertise in technology to address social and education issues. 

Beyond Blue Fusion, for younger students of primary school age, IBM also hosts events such as XploreIT and Try Science days as well as think.IT. The latter is designed especially to inspire girls to take an interest in continued study of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). 

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