Designing playgrounds to inspire STEM careers

Atkins' has forged a new partnership, aimed at inspiring young people towards STEM subjects, with Dream Networks, a not-for-profit organisation aiming to capture children’s natural enthusiasm for play and playgrounds. Dream Networks has devised the Love Plays programme, which sets children the task of designing a playground for kids in disadvantaged communities in Africa and India. Volunteers from Atkins will be working with pupils from Macaulay Primary School and Lambeth Academy in Clapham, to design a playground for the Molo Street Children Project in Kenya.

The Atkins volunteers, with vocational backgrounds varying from urban design to mechanical and civil engineering, will run workshops for students aged nine to 13, helping them to use fun, interactive design tools – from clay models to Autodesk – to create their own playground designs and assembly methods. To make sure their designs actually work for the Kenyan community, the students will speak directly with young people and teachers at the Molo Street Children Project, building communication and project management skills, as well as cultural awareness.

“Programmes like Love Plays can make a real impact on the career a child chooses," said Atkins director for London, Mike McNicholas. "We have a real shortage of engineers in this country and we need to do everything we can, including supporting programmes like these, to encourage the next generation of engineers.”

Love Plays is a STEMNet and ICE endorsed programme that has three aims: to teach young people the basic principles of sustainability and engineering; to make a positive impact on deprived communities in developing countries; and to inspire students to pursue careers in STEM. Dream Networks was founded by Marie Adeyemi, a senior chartered mechanical engineer.

“The idea behind Love Plays is to get students excited about engineering and sustainability through something all kids love to do – play,” Adeyemi said. "We teach them the fundamentals of engineering through simple and fun playground designs, and about other cultures through actually building their designs. I can’t wait to see what they come up with on the London programme and the impact it will make to the children at Molo Street Children Project.”