Robotics, Microbes and Product Design: Seagate Shows Kids Why STEM is Cool

  • Robotics design team

Studying the results using the scientific method

We all know science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) are relevant to our lives, a pathway to a meaningful career, and crucial to continued advances that can improve lives and sustain the world’s growing population … but they can also be loads of fun! With several recent events near our Springtown Northern Ireland design facility, Seagate volunteers aimed to show hundreds of kids just how fun and interesting exploring STEM can be.

Seagate Product Design Challenge

The Seagate Design Challenge, hosted last month by Thornhill College in Northern Ireland, was created to give young students hands-on experience in taking a product through the  stages of the design process, including: customer research, generating and developing ideas, solving problems, prototyping a product and getting feedback.

Product design teamWorking in teams, the students chose one of three customer profiles and designed a tech product to solve a particular problem. The teams focused on a customer need or problem, brainstormed  solutions, and selected the best idea for a product. To reflect real-life budgetary constraints, students had dummy check books so they could “pay” for Internet research time or for  printed reference materials.

During the brainstorming, a number of facilitators—including five Seagate volunteers—observed and encouraged the students at work, looking for evidence of good teamwork, creativity and innovation.

Students then created prototypes, choosing among materials including Lego bricks, plasticine, cardboard and tape. They also produced a poster illustrating their design, which the top five teams presented to a panel of judges.

Juliette Barbour, head of learning for life and work at St Cecilia’s College, said the event provided an ideal opportunity for students to develop their employability skills.

“In addition to the clear message about the importance of technology in society today, this challenge helped the students build their self-confidence and communication skills,” Barbour said. “It also enhanced their awareness of the needs of others in society and gave them a glimpse of how they might, in the future, play a part in helping to meet those needs.”

Big Bang North West Science Fair

If you’ve ever wondered where microbes hide or pondered the significance of dog-nose prints, you would have found these answers and more by visiting the Seagate-supported Big Bang Science Fair, also held last month at St Mary’s College.

The science fair showcased the best of the North West’s young engineering and science talent, giving some 100 students the opportunity to present their  projects from various disciplines, including physics, chemistry, biology and natural science. An additional 200 students also attended the event to check out the work of their peers and to participate in a range of interactive workshops and science shows, including a magnetics workshop delivered by a team of Seagate engineers.

In addition to funding, Seagate provided eight employee volunteers to serve on the judging panel. Together with representatives from other businesses and educational institutions, their job was to assess the projects on a number of criteria, including use of the scientific method and the students’ presentation and communication skills.

Big Bang North West Science Fair

Summer School in Computing, Robotics and App Design

Rounding off the hat trick of STEM activities was Ulster University’s annual Seagate Summer School.

Over the course of the week-long event  held at the University’s School of Computing and Intelligent Systems, students learned about computing, robotics, electronics and app design.

Robotics design teamThe agenda included a visit to Seagate’s Springtown facility, where the students learned how read-write heads are manufactured. The students also got a window tour of the cleanroom, including a stop at the IT Data Centre.

Dr. Pratheepan Yogarajah, coordinator of the summer school, said the Seagate site visit brought aspects of the course to life for the students.

“One of our workshops was on programming robots for navigation challenges, so it was great for the students to see robotics in action in the cleanroom,” said Yogarajah. “It’s a real benefit to have Seagate as a partner for our summer school, and a privilege to be able to bring students to such an impressive high-tech facility.”

Seagate also provided funding for the summer school and five Seagate Backup Plus Ultra Slim drives, which were presented to the student team that delivered the best project work.


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