The event started in Derby City, and has expanded to include the wider county, plus Nottingham and North Leicestershire. It designates a day for Year 9 (age 13-14 year olds), where teams of 4-5 pupils are set a rail related engineering themed challenge. For example to design a new carriage, develop plans for a station/track expansion, a heavy load-bearing bridge etc.
In 2017, industry funding enabled us to include an outreach activity in each school prior to the challenge. This included a teacher’s insight session, where a mix of industry people – such as Atkins Apprentices, Resonate and Network Rail graduates, and HS2 – discussed different careers.
With government and industry funding in 2018 enabling longer outreach sessions into Derby City schools, we had the ability to engage with up to 24 West Midlands schools. This saw two main challenge events, one in the East and one in the West Midlands.
Porterbrook has always supported iRail in the East Midlands, through sponsorship and the input of staff members on the day to support the teams. For 2019, we are delighted to act as lead sponsor for an iRail Grand Challenge Final to be run for the two winning and two runner-up schools from the regional heats.
Pulling it together
To achieve this exciting opportunity, Porterbrook works with Learn by Design, a specialist education company that delivers the outreach sessions and runs the main iRail challenge days. The Derby Railway Engineering Society, which initiated the original concept, still delivers practical support to the students on the challenge day, with YRP providing mentors. A number of employers sponsor the event and attend as participating exhibitors, sharing ideas and acting as sounding boards.