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.
Our own gradates set the iRail Grand Challenge in 2018 and facilitated on the day. As part of the activities, it was also inspiring to see our young engineers inspiring the next generation, sharing their routes into the rail industry and their experiences working in the industry.
In 2020, Porterbrook's Director of Stakeholder Engagement, Rupert Brennan Brown was part of the judging panel for the annual iRail STEM challenge. The 2020 challenge required pupils to design and construct something that was able to lift a container off a freight train and Allestree Woodlands School were crowned the winners.
In 2021 and beyond, iRail will continue to engage and inspire students. The education outreach will include Deeper Learning Sessions, an Enterprise Project and the beloved STEM Challenge Day. Schools will have the opportunity to get involved in one, two or all three facets.
We continue to be platinum sponsors of iRail as part of our commitment to developing the next generation of rail industry professionals.