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Clever schoolkids rise to the challenge

The annual CABEC contest was once again an exciting affair as youngsters gathered to solve a series of engineering problems that ranged from electrical conundrums to teapot puzzles

Winners George Heriot’s with their roof tiles project

One of my final tasks at SECTT before retiring in April was to oversee the grand final of the Construction and Built Environment Challenge (CABEC) – always a highlight of my calendar!

I’ve had the great pleasure of being involved with this annual competition for 25 years, the majority of which has been managing the event itself.  

Devised and run by colleges, universities and training providers, we once again ran a series of construction, engineering and building heats for 300 S2 pupils aged 13 and 14 from across Edinburgh and the Lothians.

“I was particularly impressed by the way the young people enthusiastically engaged in their competitive construction and build tasks”

These qualifiers culminated in the grand final on February 6, with the top ten teams of ten pupils gathering at the O2 Academy in Edinburgh for more problem-solving.

This year’s activities included the Bright Sparks electrical challenge, building a picnic bench, the teapot task, using high-tech heat sensing equipment and a bricklaying puzzle called The Name is Bond!

Top teamwork

Runners-up North Berwick High School tackle the teapot challenge

There was great excitement as the 100 competitors assembled, and this enthusiasm carried on throughout the day. Each team performed extremely well and the feedback from the challenge providers was uniformly positive, noting the excellent teamwork in particular.  

I found the pupils to be engaged and interested in every challenge and I was very impressed by how hard they all worked. It also reminded me that we are fortunate to have a fantastic and diverse group of challenge providers who are only too happy to share their knowledge and expertise with the pupils and teachers.

Each team was marked on a number of criteria including teamwork, understanding and carrying out instructions, working safely and completing the tasks, with the final scores extremely close. 

For the second year in a row, the winner’s trophy was lifted by George Heriot’s School from Edinburgh, with North Berwick High School and Armadale Academy finishing second and third respectively. All three won gift vouchers and a cheque for their CDT department.

Working together

Our special guest on the day was Graeme Dey, Minister for Higher and Further Education and Minister for Veterans, who met the pupils and helped with prize-giving. 

Afterwards he said: “I was particularly impressed by the way the young people enthusiastically engaged in their competitive construction and build tasks. 

“The practical ‘hands-on’ nature of the competition also offered a valuable insight into the world of work as well as how engineering and building services job roles can be rewarding, creative and challenging.”

Abigail Latimer from George Heriot’s School said: “The CABEC event was an amazing opportunity for pupils to participate in STEM challenges and learn about related careers and also came at the perfect time as they choose their subjects for continued learning. 

“It was brilliant to see everyone participating so enthusiastically and see how classroom learning applies to real-world scenarios.

“Our pupils enjoyed every moment of the day and were delighted to win.

“I was also extremely proud of their teamwork and communication.” 

From a personal point of view, CABEC is one of the things I will miss most about SECTT, but it is also one of the achievements of which I am most proud. 

The contest aims to inspire pupils at a vital stage in their education and highlight the huge variety of exciting careers that are available to them.

It has been uplifting to see thousands of pupils so engaged with construction and engineering, and has no doubt encouraged many young minds to go on to greater things and ensure a bright future for our built environment.

Armadale Academy took bronze


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