Stanway and Thomas Lord Audley school students show off their robotics skills at Pacepacker

Visiting school students get to grips with robotics controls at Pacepacker.

Visiting school students get to grips with robotics controls at Pacepacker. - Credit: Archant

Students from two secondary schools in Colchester got the chance to showcase their robotics skills during an open day hosted by Braintree-based manufacturer Pacepacker Services.

The 14 students from the Stanway and Thomas Lord Audley schools, who were among those shortlisted in the international VEX Robotics competition this year, built their own circuit controls and used a robot to hold their mobile phones and take photographs and videos of them exploring the work environment.

Pacepacker specialises in the design and manufacture of automatic packaging equipment and the open day was also attended by senior figures from robotic engineering companies Festo and FANUC, with which Pacepacker collaborates.

The aim of the day was to give the students an insight into the range of engineering career pathways available in the packing industry for students studying STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects.

They got to meet Packpacker apprentice Andrew Lufkin, who opted for “on the job” training rather than university, and mechanical design engineer Andrew Westrop, who took the university route.

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The students were also introduded to the Solidworks software which Pacepacker uses to created prototype robot designs and, seeing how quickly the students took to the technology, the company has agreed to sponsor a licence for the schools’ robotics groups to use the software.

Dennis Allison, managing director of Pacepacker, said: “Everything starts with an idea and STEM subjects are used throughout the entire process, from design through to installation.

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“It was a pleasure to see how inquisitive these young students’ minds are and how fast their skills are developing. For a growing company like ours it’s reassuring to see so much fresh engineering talent in the pipeline.”

Claire Fisher, STEM co-ordinator at Thomas Lord Audley School, said: “The organisation of the day was great and kept the students interested and motivated to find out more about the companies and they were enlightened as to how engineering could be relevant to their careers.

“They particularly enjoyed the hands on activities and the talk from Pacepacker’s graduate and apprentice for inspiring them to look into different post-16 options in the future. We have closed the end of term on a real high, full of enthusiasm for the STEM projects in the next academic year.”

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