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Schools across Northern Ireland are being encouraged to sign up to the Primary Engineer & Secondary Engineer Leaders Award, which has been launched today at Ulster University with Thales and the Royal Navy by Stephen Metcalfe, MP, UK Government Envoy for the Year of Engineering. The awards have had extraordinary success across the UK in encouraging children to see engineering as a viable career that changes the world. In the last academic year over 37,000 children got involved in the competition which posed the question “If you were an engineer, what would you do?”.

The Leaders Award has been made possible by three key partners; Belfast-based Thales, a global technology provider in aerospace, defence, transport & security, Ulster University, which specialises in a broad multi-disciplinary approach to Engineering in both Education and Research; and its application in solving real-world industry related problems and the Royal Navy.

The Leaders Award forms a key element of Primary Engineer Programmes – a not for profit organisation that offers schools, teachers and pupils projects to embed engineering in their curriculum and develop skills. The competition challenges pupils from 3-19 to answer the question; “If you were an engineer, what would you do?” pupils are required to interview an engineer, ask questions that help to develop a seed of an idea, then draw and annotate their idea. It culminates in an awards ceremony and public exhibition. One of the designs will be selected by Ulster University to build into a prototype which will be unveiled the following year

In this last academic year Primary Engineer Programmes reached over 56,000 school children, engaged with over 1300 engineers and nearly 4,000 teachers.

Professor Colin Turner, Ulster University Professor of Engineering Education commented;

“The student experience is at the forefront of the learning experience at Ulster University and we work with a long list of industry partners to ensure that our graduates are equipped with the skills and knowledge to make an impact on the industry. The launch of the Primary Engineer & Secondary Engineer Leaders Award has great synergies with our work at Ulster University and alongside our partners will create a platform to engage with and celebrate the best and brightest engineers of the future.”

The launch of the Northern Ireland Primary Engineer & Secondary Engineer Leaders Award in 2018 is highly relevant as the industry makes a seismic shift towards encouraging young people into engineering. A goal that has been emphasised during the UK Government’s Year of Engineering. Primary Engineer has been a key stakeholder organisation for the Year of Engineering and the competition has formed a key part of pupil engagement with engineering.

HM Government Envoy for the Year of Engineering, Stephen Metcalfe MP, said:

“Showing young people where their curiosity and creativity could take them is at the heart of the Year of Engineering. It’s been fantastic to see the impact of the Primary Engineer & Secondary Leaders Award throughout the year, giving children the chance to solve real engineering challenges, and bringing them face to face with engineers who shape our future, making the world a safer, cleaner and better place.

Northern Ireland has a rich engineering heritage, and I am delighted to see Thales, Ulster University and the Royal Navy working with Primary Engineer to launch the Leaders Award here. I have no doubt that their combined enthusiasm and expertise will inspire schoolchildren across the country and bring about a positive change in the number of young people realising what they could achieve as engineers.”

Susan Scurlock, Founder of Primary Engineer added;

“This is just the beginning for school pupils in Northern Ireland, we look forward to seeing first hand just how creative, inventive and ingenious the pupils will be. We are proud to be working with Thales, Ulster University and the Royal Navy to bring the competition to allow even more pupils to design the future of engineering”.

Primary Engineer welcomes all schools to sign up to the free competition by visiting