FIA18 Recap – Futures Day and the Skills Agenda

Farnborough International Airshow tends to catch the eye with its dramatic announcements about major aircraft and engine deals. However, the Airshow is not just about business of today, but also the generation of tomorrow. Nothing could be more important for the future of the Aerospace and Defence sectors than the promotion of STEM subjects in school, so as to ensure that future generations have the skills, and indeed enthusiasm, that these sectors need to thrive.

The final day of the trade show was Futures Day 2018, aimed at encouraging young people to study STEM subjects and to discover the many different career opportunities available in Aerospace and Defence. Groups aged 11 to 21 from schools, universities and youth associations from across the country came to take part in a jam-packed programme of activities, with a varied programme of talks, hands-on experiments, group work and competitions.

European Space Agency Astronaut, Tim Peake, officially opened Futures Day 2018 with two big announcements. Firstly, Tim Peake announced that the name of the new European ExoMars rover going to Mars in 2020 would be opened up to a public competition – this competition will be overseen by an expert panel however, so it’s unlikely to be called ‘Rover McRoverFace’! Secondly, as part of the Government’s Year of Engineering he also kicked off the Holiday Makers campaign, an initiative for encouraging children to get making and inventing over the summer holidays.

One highlight from the day was the conclusion of the Youth Rocketry Challenge, at which Tonbridge School in Kent competed in an international fly-off against teams from the USA, Japan and France; the School placed 4th in the final competition. The international finals asked the teams to design, build and launch a model rocket, with a fragile cargo on board. This Challenge was just one example of how industry supports and encourages young people into future careers in aerospace and space.

In other parts of the Airshow students had a chance to meet the Red Arrow pilots and ‘Blue’ engineers who ensure they can stay in the air, tackle Thales’s Codebreaker machine, take part in a Cargo Drop Challenge to ensure an Airbus A400M could deliver aid to a remote village, and build their own personal mini jet engine with Rolls-Royce. Representatives across the Aerospace industry, from apprentices to company executives, were also on hand to give first-hand advice on the opportunities and career paths available in STEM.

Farnborough International Airshow is the perfect backdrop to inspire young people about Aerospace and Defence, and it will continue to wholeheartedly support the STEM skills agenda in the years to come.