Green meets Grey – a STEAMY affair

Stannah host a day of discovery for Greens (students) and Greys (their experienced employees) alike

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) has added a new element (Arts) to make STEAM. And STEAM was the theme for an innovative full-day workshop at lift company Stannah’s Andover headquarters. The day was just one in a series of initiatives under the company’s Joseph Stannah Foundation, set up in celebration of 150 years of business, to support STEM students and projects in every stage of education.

Mike Newman, Group learning and development manager at Stannah, explains:

“STEM education is vital to the economy and our business. At Stannah, we are determined to do everything in our power to inspire the next generation. As part of the membership of the STEM UK Project Enthuse we now have a group of Stannah STEM ambassadors to champion work with young people. The Green meets Grey project is a celebration of how we can help each other to think innovatively and that young ideas married with experience can be truly inspiring.”

Green Meets Grey is a workshop designed to encourage creativity and problem-solving.  It brings together school or college students to help equip them with work-ready skills, by matching them with business mentors. The benefit to a company hosting an event is to get a better understanding of the expectations of young people. The day at Stannah was organised by Louise Clarke from ConnectTVT with the help of Mark Mason from Design Thinking.  The 15 Stannah STEM ambassadors come from a variety of disciplines; engineers, apprentices and university placement students.

Louise Clarke focuses on the inclusiveness of the STEM events explaining:

 “These workshops in industry are for all abilities, everyone gets to take part. It is so important for us to  engage all our students and demonstrate the application of STEM skills at many levels.”

Using STEAM as the theme for the day, over 40 year 11 students from three Andover schools, Harrow Way, John Hanson, Winton Academy took part together with South Wilts UTC in Salisbury. Split into ten different teams, each with ‘grey’ mentors the participants set about their challenge for the day. Mark Mason tasked the teams to design a stairlift or wheelchair lift for a series of specific personas (each based on a celebrity name), with consideration for their particular mobility problems. Personas ranged from Michael J Fox who has Parkinson’s disease to Aaron ‘Wheelz’ Fotheringham, a skater in a wheelchair.

The STEM ambassador led their teams through a typical design process of first empathising with their persona, then defining their particular needs. Team brainstorming followed with the room quickly becoming animated as each team found a space to work in and tried out the different stairlifts and lifts that were displayed.  Team members also had the chance to visit an empathy zone.  The empathy zone had equipment to help them understand what it might be like to have, for example, arthritis or sight problems. This immediately created empathetic thinking and an appreciation of the challenges everyday life might present to stairlift users.

The ten groups were challenged further by each creating a three-minute sales pitch of their lift innovations in a ‘Dragon’s Den’ format to a panel of four Stannah ‘dragons’, including Jon Stannah, Group MD.

Ideas varied enormously, from the concept of a hidden lift to automatic safety bars replacing seatbelts and magnetic locks. Solar charging was extolled as was, overwhelmingly, the concept of voice activation.

The whole day proved to be a learning curve for Greens and Greys alike and a fantastic success by all.

Just some of the comments from Greens:

‘I thought Stairlifts would be boring but they’re not at all.’

‘I didn’t realise what an impact these lifts had on people’s lives.’

‘I loved seeing products being produced and sharing my ideas with our mentors.’

‘Our STEM subjects are so useful in the workplace, it makes me want to work harder.’

and from Greys:

‘There is much to learn from these students.’

‘I love the immediate emphasis they placed on using the latest technology in our products.’

‘What a fabulous day. It will give us renewed energy to ensure our stairlifts meet every user need.’

‘Future recruitment looks bright!’

Group Managing Director, Jon Stannah, summed up the day:

“What a joy to see the interaction between the teams, the fabulous ideas and the huge level of enthusiasm from Greens and Greys. It is an education to us all. The STEAM theme demonstrated how creative thinking is essential to the STEM processes. We face challenges across our businesses every day and need to allow ourselves time in our processes to embrace new ideas and explore possibilities. I speak for everyone at Stannah when I say congratulations to all four schools and a huge thank you to the students, it was a privilege to work with them.”

acoleman 16-11-2018