How does a company prepare to take part in TeenTech for the first time? TeenTech Solent ran for the first time in 2015 with partners EBP South and one company share their experiences of building a hands on session below. TeenTech are always willing to provide support so companies build and design activities which are engaging, age appropriate and provide real insight into industry and the people who work there …

Case Study – Portsmouth Water 

Portsmouth Water were approached by EBP South to sponsor and contribute a stand at the first TeenTech Solent event, held on the 14th May 2015. Portsmouth Water has been involved with EBP for over 20 years, mainly in the guise of the annual Science Fair (now the STEM fair). It is this long-standing working relationship that compelled Portsmouth Water to agree to EBP’s request.

A project team was put into place and our first decision was to decide whether to put ourselves forward for the 15 minute insight zone or the 30 minute challenge zone. We decided to make our decision once we had determined what our activity could be. We began by seeing how we could use our current interactive water cycle model; however, we were concerned that the students at this event were older than the students we normally see at the STEM fair. We therefore investigated other options and the 3 person project team had a brainstorming session; the creativity soon began to flow!

One of the project team, a young engineer named Connor Smith, came up with the idea of using plastic piping to replicate the underground piped distribution network. It was at this point when I remembered a conversation a colleague of mine and I had a year back; many water companies, including Portsmouth Water, take treated potable drinking water and pump it to a service reservoir located on top of a hill. From there water flows downhill through pipes to people’s homes, all under the force of gravity. The conversation took place around creating a model of this process. This idea was brought up and we thought this was a perfect opportunity to marry the two ideas together.

A TeenTech training session by EBP and Maggie Philben was due in a couple of weeks’ time, so we decided to wait to see what the training session had in store. The training session was excellent and really gave our project some focus. The scale and prestige of the TeenTech event was apparent, with industry-leading companies such as Atkins, BAE, National Grid and Airbus UK all taking part. It dawned on me that we needed a bigger budget! We emphasised the fact that these major players were taking part and a larger budget was agreed upon by management.

With the training session providing a much needed insight, we started to look for a model maker. With a “back of the beer mat” style conceptual drawing in our hands we approached a number of model makers. The idea was to build a display where the students would have to build a piped network with push fit plumbing pipes (we are now all experts and should become plumbers), followed by the students having to pump water up to a service reservoir located on a hill top. They would do this using their own energy by using a bike connected to a low output electrical generator, which would drive a low volume submersible pump. If the students were successful in pumping the water into the reservoir it would be time for the moment of truth: the students were then required to sequentially open a number of valves to allow the water from the reservoir to drain under gravity, as it does in real life, through the pipework and to the replicated homes at the bottom of the display – hopefully with no leaks! During practice for the event we had many large scale leaks; we were sure that the Guildhall would not be happy with us if we had flooded them out!

In addition to the model, we decided to run a team building icebreaker session involving a large hula hoop. We ran this part of the activity to emphasise how important teamwork and communication are in the work place.

In the lead up to the event, the expected delivery date of the model became later and later and was not delivered until very close to the event. This made the build up to the event very stressful. However, the day itself was fantastic and more than made up for the stress involved.

The Portsmouth Water project team (Sue Allery, Connor Smith and James Bucknall), along with the volunteers on the day (Tanya Bromley and Steven Geary), would like to thank the EBP and TeenTech for the opportunity to get involved with such a prestigious and rewarding event.

The model that was created for this event won’t sit in a cupboard collecting dust. It is envisaged that it will be used at other public events that Portsmouth Water take water in, such as the Staunton Festival, school visits and, of course, the EBP STEM Fair.