Posted: 10 November, 2021

Building the Ideas Makers of Tomorrow

Blog, Careers, Design, General, In the Press, News, Senior School, Sixth Form, STEM

When Greta Thunberg mouthed the immortal phrase “blah, blah, blah” at last week’s COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, she hit the headlines and more than a few nerves. Greta was voicing the fears of many young people, acutely aware that talk can be cheap if it isn’t backed up by meaningful commitment.

In the wake of the 2015 Paris agreement, calls for action are getting louder, particularly as the language of “climate change” gives way more alarmingly to “climate crisis”. I am proud that Putney students are not only making their voices heard but proactively seeking solutions.

One of the participants at the Glasgow summit is Ananya in Year 12. She has been instrumental in gathering voices for ActNow, an official COP universities project film, being screened at the summit. In it, young people from around the world talk about their hopes and fears, their climate pledges, and their demands of the COP negotiators.

Having spent the summer volunteering at Professor Sir David King’s Cambridge Centre for Climate Repair, Ananya was invited to COP to experience and to learn. She is also there in a professional capacity, gathering ideas for the plant-based recipes project that she and her Putney Young Enterprise team are working on this year.

Ananya is not alone. She joins other Putney students who will be heard this week on BBC Radio 5 Live, as they talk to The Naked Scientist about the psychology of climate change and how it affects their lives day to day.

Another sixth-former, one of our design scholars, Maddy in Year 13, has been using her Design Technology lessons to combat the problem of landfill, designing an eco-friendly bin that slowly melts plastic into cubes, more readily digestible by recycling machines.

These young people know that practical innovation will be as key to change as open-mindedness. A forward-thinking approach to learning is giving them the confidence to be proactive in their approach, putting both hard work and creativity into innovative projects that may just find solutions to many of the environmental problems we face. Putney’s new Design Thinking curriculum could not have come at a better time!

Our new Head of Product Design and Technology, Francesca David is passionate about giving girls a solid understanding of engineering, design thinking, architecture, product design and robotics, and enabling students to make connections between these subjects alongside computer science, maths and physics. “Design Technology brings together the best of all of these subjects,” she explains, “and develops the essential problem-solving skills needed in a diverse technology society”.

Despite there being four times more applications from men than women to university engineering courses, the last ten years have shown a 96% increase in female undergraduate applications. This increase has been borne out at Putney, with Design Technology seeing a surge in popularity and numbers wishing to study the subject at GCSE and A Level very much on the rise. This could be partly due to what Miss David describes as, “developing a landscape where all students are empowered to be bold, ambitious and seek out challenges that respond to real world problems”.

Putney’s new Engineering Club is run by two keen Sixth Form engineers. Scarlett and Ekaterina in Year 12 have started their club sessions with Mechanical Engineering, “looking at the building of things” with Years 7-9; Chemical, Civil and Software will follow.

“It’s the problem-solving and the hands-on approach that really appeals,” they agree, and both are excited to be inspiring younger pupils. The club’s appeal is down to a lot more than matchsticks and marshmallows and demonstrates how easy it can be to attract female talent in engineering. One keen participant, Thea in Year 7 explains, “They don’t really give us a set of instructions on how to do something, so it improves our independence and we can learn for ourselves the process of making something.”

Practical problem-solving is by no means restricted to the workshop. Anyone passing Putney’s new Innovation Centre will know that there is often a frown to be found on the foreheads of the students inside. They are deep in thought, encouraged not to find a right or wrong answer, but to problem-solve, using the creative applications of computer science alongside Robotics and Artificial Intelligence.

Whether their ambitions lie in solving global challenges like climate crisis; pursuing engineering or architecture; or applying their knowledge to other related fields; most importantly these young people are leaving Putney with the industry-ready skills that will allow them to hit the ground running, ready and able to become the idea-makers of the future, and with the skills to make them a reality.

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