STEAM Lab in the Babbage Building
The University of Plymouth is launching a new initiative that aims to enhance young people’s interest in engineering, while at the same time boosting their self-esteem and achievements.
Funded by a grant of almost £100,000 from the Royal Academy of Engineering, the project will deliver two week-long summer schools for Year 10 pupils and post-16 students from across Plymouth.
The programme has been developed for disadvantaged learners, including those who may have an education and health care plan, or special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
It will also be open to those who face poverty or socio-economic disadvantage, or those who experience other forms of inequality relating to gender, or ethnicity.
The summer schools will be held in the state-of-the-art engineering laboratories within the University’s recently opened Babbage Building. 
Delivered with support from current undergraduate students, they will offer a range of activities designed to raise awareness of the role engineers play in society.
They will also offer guidance on higher education access, and develop confidence and leadership skills among both the participants and those working to support them.
The interdisciplinary project is being co-led by Dr Asiya Khan in the School of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics, and Dr Suanne Gibson, from the Plymouth Institute of Education (PIoE) in the School of Society and Culture. Dr Gibson has previously run summer schools focused on creativity and employability for young people with autism-related conditions 

This is an exciting new programme that has the real potential to benefit the young people taking part, and everyone working with them. Engineering is a profession that is open to everyone, and through this project we have to break down some of the barriers which people may currently feel intimidated by. By letting them see what a career in engineering can offer, we hope to boost their self-esteem academic work now, and enhancing their opportunities for the future.

Asiya KhanAsiya Khan
Associate Professor of Multimedia Communication and Intelligent Control

In previous workshops, we have seen participants grow in confidence and competence as they learn new skills. That is something we hope to build on with this new project. By involving our current students and training them as mentors – this gives them the opportunity to develop their self-esteem and confidence. We observe them growing their communication and leadership abilities, working with, and managing teams as they move towards graduation. They will also develop an understanding of learning and inclusion to gain an appreciation of their civic duty as future professional engineers who promote social justice and equity at work.

Suanne GibsonSuanne Gibson
Associate Professor in Education

This is the second time in three years that the University has been awarded funding through the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Diversity Impact Programme.
The previous initiative, also led by Dr Khan, sought to provide dedicated support to disabled and neurodiverse engineering students through a range of mentoring, internships and other interventions.
In addition to learnings from that project, this new programme will build on PIoE’s school partnership and CPD offer alongside research impact. It will also add to practices and provision that already exist in schools by addressing inequalities that exist in society and education and impact upon pupils’ attainment, attendance and progression.
It has also been designed to promote social and civic responsibilities among undergraduate engineering students from underrepresented backgrounds, and to boost graduate outcomes.
The Royal Academy of Engineering’s Diversity Impact Programme is designed to address the unequal outcomes experienced by students from diverse and underrepresented groups studying engineering.

I find it impossible to overstate how vital it is that we find new and better ways to tackle the long-standing inequality of experience and outcomes for engineering students and graduates from underrepresented groups. I am encouraged to see how the Diversity Impact Programme is unlocking such ingenuity on the part of staff and students as they collaborate to tackle this problem together. Emerging findings from the projects we have supported to date are already providing important insights into how universities can cultivate more inclusive cultures at a critical stage for aspiring engineers.

Joanna Whiteman
Head of Diversity and Inclusion at the Royal Academy of Engineering

Babbage Building: where engineering meets design

The £63 million Babbage Building creates a state-of-the-art space to inspire the engineering and design pioneers of the future
Dedicated to teaching and research, the facility brings STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) subjects together to support academic collaboration and innovation.
Babbage roof garden