Big Bang Fair opens in Birmingham

The UK’s largest celebration of science and engineering opens at the NEC, Birmingham

Today (April 11, 2015) The Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Fair opened at The NEC, Birmingham, hosting the UK’s largest celebration of science and engineering for young people. Open on March 11-14, organisers aim to welcome around 75,000 young people, between the ages of 7-19 years old, to the free science and engineering extravaganza.

The latest data from EngineeringUK and Cebr highlights the urgent need for the UK to inspire and mobilise the next generation of scientists and engineers. The engineering industry already accounts for over a quarter (27.1%) of the UK’s total GDP and growth is expected to generate an additional £27 billion annually for the UK economy by 2022 – the equivalent of building 1,800 schools or 110 hospitals per year.

In order to sustain this flourishing industry and meet the projected demand, British engineering companies will require a workforce of 182,000 people per year within the next decade. However, with a current annual shortfall of 55,000 skilled workers, the sector’s potential will only be realised if the number of apprentices and graduates entering the engineering industry doubles.

Showcasing the many opportunities there are for young people with the right experience and qualifications, The Big Bang Fair hopes to give a flavour of the real scale of engineering and science in the UK to 11-14 year olds. The Fair hosts an array of activities and live performances, with the first three days open to school groups and Saturday open to families – adult attendees must be accompanying a child.

The daily programme includes two headline shows. One comes from top food science presenter Stefan Gates, whose live Supertasters show blends multisensory perception with multidisciplinary scientific ‘mayhem’. Gastronaut Stefan Gates teams up with STFC’s particle physicist Suzie Sheehy in an interactive adventure based on the senses and what lies beyond them, mixing explosions, laughter, screaming and some very weird smells.

The other, #Error404, is a renegade mix of audience interaction, live coding and explosions, brought to you by CBBC’s Fran Scott and her team of ‘evil geniuses’. The show will challenge the notion that computer programming is just for techno nerds. Armed with her Raspberry Pi computers, microcontrollers and a wealth of pyrotechnics, Fran will reveal just how easy coding is and the unexpected ways it can be used.

And that’s not all – there are more than 150 attention-grabbing activities for visitors to enjoy. Crawl through a giant nose to find out what makes us sneeze, watch TV on a T-shirt, build a car and test drive it in a wind tunnel or navigate home from distant galaxies.

Paul Jackson, chief executive of The Big Bang, said: “This year is set to be one of the biggest and most exciting years yet, with an amazing range of shows and hands-on activities. The Big Bang Fair is much more than just a fun day out. It gives young people the chance to speak to leading scientists and engineers and to see for themselves the range of exciting careers that their science and maths subjects can lead to.” 

Minister for State School Reform, Nick Gibb, who opened this year’s Fair, said: “Events like The Big Bang Fair help young people develop their excitement about studying maths, science and engineering and show the rewarding and varied careers these subjects can lead to. â€¨

“As part of our long term economic plan, we need many more young people highly skilled in STEM subjects. That’s why we are raising standards in maths and science by attracting the best candidates into teaching, introducing a new, more rigorous national curriculum, and encouraging more young people, especially girls, to study maths and physics to a higher level. 

“Our plan for education will ensure all pupils leave school with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in a competitive global economy and I am pleased to support the Big Bang Fair in celebrating the best of UK engineering and science talent.” 

The Big Bang Fair hosts the finals of the National Science + Engineering Competition where students from across the country will compete to claim one of the most prestigious science and engineering honours for young people. The judges attending include: Nobel Prize winner, Sir Tim Hunt; the first British astronaut, Helen Sharman; Jason Bradbury, presenter of The Gadget Show; and Leena Gade, the first female race engineer to win the Le Mans 24 Hours.