More than 130 Year 9 high school students from across Lancashire descended onto Preston’s College to take part in the Chemistry at Work challenge.

Hosted at the College’s £13m iSTEM Centre in conjunction with STEMFirst, the Royal Society of Chemistry and Cogent, the day consisted of a range of exciting STEM (Science Technology, Engineering and Maths) experiments and workshops.

The event, aimed at helping students explore different careers available to them in chemistry, saw 11 high schools from across Lancashire put their science skills to the test. Challenges included designing a water filter, analysing food for vitamin C content and chemistry career workshops.

One of the top prizes for the challenges went to Penwortham Girls High School, who, in the water filter challenge, recorded the fastest time for designing and building a device that could effectively clean dirty ground water. Several students were also recognised for essential employability skills such as teamwork, creativity and lab procedure.

Live STEM workshops were delivered by local STEM employers Johnson Matthey and NSG Nuclear Solutions, as well as National Nuclear Laboratory – a global leader and Government advisor within the nuclear industry.

Helen Heggie, chartered engineer and director of STEMFirst, comments on the success of the day and how she believes theory work is not enough for student learning.

“Students need to be able to apply, communicate and adapt their knowledge in order to be successful in the workplace – and this event gave them a taster of what it would be like to work in the industry,” she said.

“The College’s iSTEM Centre was the perfect setting for what was an extremely enjoyable day. Our aim at STEMFirst is to inspire the next generation of engineers and scientists, because STEM is essential for society – engineers and scientists keep us safe, develop solutions to problems, improve our way of life and push the boundaries of our understanding.

“The opportunities available in STEM are enormous, however many young people do not realise the breadth of where a career in science can take them. By raising awareness and providing them with opportunities to develop communication, problem solving and creative skills, we are helping them take control of their own futures.”

Rebecca Kay, iSTEM operations manager at Preston’s College, added: “I want to say huge congratulations to everyone that took part. The students worked considerably hard and really got stuck in on the day!

“Events like this help to spark a young person’s interest in science and hopefully by giving them an insight into this exciting career, we will inspire some to pursue this path in the future and enable us to reach the one million new technicians and engineers needed in the UK by 2020.

“As a College, we value real work experience just as much as academic knowledge and the key skills shown by the students today such as problem solving, team work and innovation are exactly what we look for in our pupils. We hope many of those who attended the event will continue their education at Preston’s College.”


For more information about the science and chemistry courses at Preston’s College, visit