Stevenage students off to a flying start with Airbus mentoring scheme

PUBLISHED: 08:30 04 October 2019

Stevenage mayor Simon Speller with Olympian Kriss Akabusi at the launch of the Flying Challenge programme. Picture courtesy of Jeremy Close.

Stevenage mayor Simon Speller with Olympian Kriss Akabusi at the launch of the Flying Challenge programme. Picture courtesy of Jeremy Close.

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An Olympian and a planetary scientist have launched a programme for Stevenage students which could prove to be a life-changing opportunity.

Olympian Kriss Akabusi gives a motivational speech to students at The Thomas Alleyne Academy during the launch of the Flying Challenge launch. Picture courtesy of Jeremy Close.Olympian Kriss Akabusi gives a motivational speech to students at The Thomas Alleyne Academy during the launch of the Flying Challenge launch. Picture courtesy of Jeremy Close.

The multi award-winning Flying Challenge programme launched at The Thomas Alleyne Academy last week, when 20 pupils met with Olympian Kriss Akabusi and planetary scientist Suzie Imber - winner of BBC Two's Astronauts, Do You Have What It Takes?

The Flying Challenge will see 13 and 14 year olds given the opportunity to work with Airbus employees in a year-long programme during which they will learn about space and satellites, develop confidence and self-esteem, and gain new skills and practical experience.

The youth mentoring programme will include 20 weekly sessions at Airbus, where the students will learn about space flight and get unique behind-the-scenes access to satellite design and testing, as well as to experts and facilities on the Stevenage site.

They will also visit other organisations in the area to learn about the breadth of career opportunities in the STEM - science, technology, engineering and mathematics - industry.

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By the time they graduate from the Flying Challenge, the students will have undertaken a wide range of specialist experiences, worked with mentors, completed a skills portfolio and worked towards a nationally-recognised qualification.

Since the start of the Flying Challenge in 2012, about 5,000 young students across 17 Airbus sites around the world have completed the programme.

Malcolm Evely, site director at Airbus on Stevenage's Gunnels Wood Road, said: "This cohort of students will be the first at Stevenage to embark on the journey. We hope they will be inspired by our exciting projects, such as the recently completed ExoMars rover and the satellites we are building to monitor Earth.

"We are proud to be a part of these students' lives and look forward to seeing their talents, skills and confidence develop over the coming year."

Mark Lewis, headteacher at The Thomas Alleyne Academy, called it an "amazing project". He said: "Our students are really excited and looking forward to this huge challenge.

"Our students were also inspired to hear from Kriss Akabusi and Suzie Imber about their hard work and effort that took them to the top of their professions."

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