On 12th May Talent 2030 visited EDF Energy at their visitors centre in Bridgwater, Somerset. EDF part-sponsored our 2014/15 National Engineering Competition for Girls, and one of the many benefits of sponsorship is the opportunity to host outreach days. Attending the event were a delegation from the Engineering department of Bristol University, and a group of school girls from nearby Frome College.
The Talent 2030 team gave a presentation to the girls about the competition, talking them through how to enter, what they could win, and why Talent 2030 is important. We showcased the winning projects from last year and explained that all our shortlisted entrants get the chance to exhibit at the Big Bang Fair in front of 70,000 people! Afterwards we handed out flyers and badges and had the chance to talk with the girls about their GCSE choices, their ambitions for when they leave school, and the notion of gender-specific careers.
While we were there, we got the chance to look round the exhibition EDF has created to engage visitors with the subject of nuclear energy. The visitors centre is situated in a busy shopping mall, so it aims to improve the image of nuclear power with the general public. The exhibition contained interactive models of power plants, information about the history of nuclear power, and global maps of radiation levels. The girls really enjoyed exploring these displays; it gave them a chance to learn more about a complex side to engineering. Later, they got to show off this knowledge by taking part in a quiz run by PhD students from Bristol University. The girls competed in three teams, answering questions such as ‘Why are bananas radioactive’ and correctly labelling the parts of a nuclear power plant.
This built up their excitement for the second part of the outreach day. In the afternoon we travelled to Hinkley Point B on the north coast of Somerset for a guided tour of a working power plant. Hinkley has three plants in various stages of productivity; Point A was decommissioned in 2000, and Point C is not due to be completed until 2023. Point B however, is an operational plant with two advanced gas-cooled reactors running at around 80%. At this level, it supplies 1% of the UK’s total power output.
On our guided tour we visited the control room, walked the galleries above the reactors, and heard electricity travelling from the plant to the National Grid pipeline. The girls were told about career prospects – Hinkley Point C will provide 25,000 employment opportunities – and different educational pathways into engineering. The girls really engaged with all aspects of the visit, asking intuitive questions about the re-fuelling process and experimenting with a Geiger-Counter. They were less keen about wearing high-vis jackets and the hardhats, but getting to meet Zingy the EDF mascot helped!