It was, admits Rob Bennett, an “interesting” introduction to project director and previous land speed record holder Richard Noble, but an accurate one. Part of sponsor liaison from another company, Rob was taken on to work on the project’s health and safety eight years ago.
Within a year, however, he says he was drawn into the education side of the programme and has since enjoyed “the most exciting thing he has ever done”. With previous work in a band doing youth engagement in schools, prisons and youth custody centres, Rob quickly realised he wanted to spread Bloodhound’s fascinating story in the same way.
“The Bloodhound story for me was not the car itself but the idea of the car,” he says. “The idea that you could take an amazing piece of cutting-edge technology, state-of-the-art design, and tell that story to 10-year-olds and engage and inspire them to make an emotional connection to say ‘Yeah, I could do that. I could do more than that’.”
Inspiring a generation to take up the engineering and scientific challenges of the future has never been as important as it is right now.
Through the life of this project Bloodhound has partnered with industry and education to highlight the routes into STEM careers. A degree is not the only option and apprenticeships are being offered more and more as a route which highlights the many options in a sector which is in constant change.
Here’s just one young engineers story...
At school in 2008, Jess Herbert was not interested in engineering. “If you had told me in a few years’ time you’ll be a proper engineer with all your qualifications, I’d likely laugh at you,” she says – although that is exactly what happened.
Now a manufacturing engineer at Rolls-Royce, Jess can trace her passion for the sector all the way back to the start. The Bloodhound team visited her school, giving presentations and speaking about the aims of the project.
“Something just clicked,” she says. “I just went ‘Wow, this is really cool’. There were so many questions that I wanted to investigate and get answered and so many things I wanted to do, like what happens if you stick it up on end? What happens if you point it straight down? Why can’t they do it in this way? All of these things that I wanted to go and answer, I did.”
Following the visit, Jess contacted the team, who supported her application for an apprenticeship with her current employer. She became fully qualified last year and is also an ambassador for the project, spreading inspiration to more young pupils.
“The main message that we want to get across is that engineering isn’t the stereotype you always think of,” she says. “It’s not all oil and overalls. If that’s what you like, then great… but there are still so many things you can do and so many different things you can get involved with. It’s this incredible space where you can push boundaries and constantly try to do the next thing.”
After all, she says, if a 1,000mph car does not get you excited, then what will?
When asked, what is an engineer?
Rob replied, ”A curious problem solver.”
Bloodhound Education has a wealth of learning resources, videos and a range of activities for families to engage the young and the curious in the skills needed for the future.
Visit www.bloodhoudeducation.com for more information on this fascinating STEM education charity