STEM at Fyling Hall School – The 14th Rotary Technology Tournament

By Ayd Instone, Head of Physics

Aside for the two pandemic years of 2020/21 I’ve been lucky enough to take teams of our top budding engineers to victory at the Rotary Technology Tournament for five years (2016-19 and last year, 2022). Could we do it once again this year?

I have to choose teams of four from our Year 8, Year 10 and A Level groups. That’s always the tricky bit as even in our small school there’s lots of talent to choose from. I chose who I thought would have the best complimentary skills needed for the job: 

  • Practical skills: the task is to make something that does something so you need to be able to use tools.
  • Teamwork: the team has to work as a team of four. There’s no room for dominators or those that might sit back and do little.
  • A sound understanding of engineering and physics principles: the machine has to actually work.
  • Patience and resilience: nothing works first time, you need to adopt adapt and improve.
  • Creativity: to think around the problem.
  • Communication: you need to be able to record your design ideas in a portfolio as part of the judging.

These are skills many of our students have in abundance (it’s been commented on before at the tournament on how we stand out).

This was the first event following the death of the competition’s founder and champion, Fred Payne. I had attended his funeral the week before. We started the proceeding with a minutes silence in remembrance before the task began.

The teams had to build a cable car, a sort of transporter bridge, powered by a small electric motor, that would deliver a package over a chasm. The younger groups had to just get across. The intermediate groups had to get there and back and the advanced group had to deliver the package and then get back. 

After an intensive day’s effort the results were in: although our Year 8 boys team came very close, they were beaten by our Year 8 girls team. We also won the Advanced team competition. So two trophies to take back.

But then came an extra award in memory of Fred Payne. This was to be awarded to a team that in the judges opinion deserved extra recognition for creative thinking, communication and teamwork. It went to our Year 8 girls too! The judges couldn’t praise them highly enough in how they shared out the parts of the task, answered questions to the judges in a clear, enthusiastic manner and most of all worked as a superb team. Well done to Bonnie, Faith, Isobel and Tabby. So we’ll need space for three more trophies this year!

Have a look at the video for more!