The Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT), held on 14-16 July at RAF Fairford in the UK, welcomed thousands of visitors seeking to explore the innovations, technologies and of course aircraft on show during the event.

Despite a wet start to the annual air show, there were plenty of flight displays to wow the crowds. The Royal Saudi Air Force returned to the event after a 12-year hiatus to display its British Aerospace Hawk mk65/65As, while the Royal Danish Air Force put on a breath-taking show with its red and white F-16AM Fighting Falcon.

STEM innovations

It wasn’t just aircraft that provided inspiration during the event. Hazel King from FINN visited the TechnoZone to see the innovations on show, including the Axe eVTOL vehicle from Skyfly. There was also a plethora of exciting STEM challenges for younger visitors to take part in, with the aim of getting them interested in a future career in the aerospace and engineering sectors.

“It’s about inspiring the next generation,” said Claire Lyes, director of STEMworks, which is holding the Junior Engineering Challenge during RIAT 2023. “What is vital is showing the practical application of physics and maths. We’re trying to show that engineering is for everyone and want to encourage design technology in schools and therefore the future workforce.”

Inspiring engineers

The Junior Engineering Challenge is split into two sections – one for primary aged children and one for secondary level (Years 9 and 10). For the primary competition, STEMworks visited 10 local primary schools and worked with the children on creating a humanitarian aid vehicle using a variety of tools. The children had to make a frame, attach wheels and use appropriate structures within the vehicles to transport water, food and a first aid kit. Each vehicle was then tested using a simple propulsion system of an elastic band, and the team whose vehicle travelled the furthest from each school was invited to the finals on Friday 14 July at RIAT.

The secondary level competition, which is sponsored by Lockheed Martin, requires the children to design a robot, build it and programme it to collect rock samples, and then build a launch pad and launch the robot successfully. The competition takes its inspiration from the Mars ascent vehicle designed by Lockheed Martin for NASA.

The teams are supported by volunteers from Lockheed Martin and the final of the competition takes place tomorrow (15 July).

There were also challenges from the James Dyson Foundation to design and build a helicopter; Raytheon UK encouraged visitors to complete its Mini Quadcopter challenge; and Primary Engineers, an RAF-supported charity, was on hand to help children create ideas for its ‘if you were an engineer, what would do?’ initiative.

A highlight for many of the visitors young and old was a talk by British astronaut Tim Peake on the Inspire Stage in the TechnoZone, who talked about what it takes to become an astronaut and the importance of encouraging STEM for the future workforce.

Pioneers of Tomorrow

Growing the future workforce through the promotion of industry-led educational days continues to be a key focus for the industry. At Farnborough Air Show 2024 next July, a special event will be held to showcase the world of aerospace and inspire the next generation of pioneers. Pioneers of Tomorrow will be open to the public and will offer an array of activities that look to the future, including the flying and static displays, interactive hands-on activities, access to the trade exhibition, innovation showcase, a dedicated careers hub and inspirational speakers.

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