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Woodthorpe Junior and Infant School building bridges at BT

The iconic ATE building in Birmingham was the location for Woodthorpe Junior and Infant schools’ latest business trip. Twenty Year 5 students would be taking in a bridge building construction challenge that would help them become teamwork and problem solving superstars. With engineers from BT supporting with this task, the students knew they were in capable hands. With the engineers searching for the best bridge ready to judge these in a final showdown, there was a lot to play for.

What’s it like to work at BT?

Eager to get started with the challenge, Woodthorpe Junior and Infant School got settled straight away. Joining them were four volunteers from BT who were eager to reveal all about working there, share their expertise and support students to develop their teamwork and problem solving skills.

The students introduced themselves to their new colleagues for the day, and before long they were practising their interview techniques on them. When volunteer James was asked what he wanted to be when he was 9 years old, he replied, ‘I wanted to be a footballer, but then I realised that I was better at science and became an engineer for BT instead. I’ve worked for BT for two years now, I’m the person who goes up the telephone poles and fixes the problems’

Working Together and Building Bridges

Their challenge for the day would be to build a bridge using only newspaper, cellotape and scissors. This would put their teamworking skills to the ultimate test, for it would not be possible to construct a bridge using only two hands!

A few minutes after they were given the task, the teams came up against a critical problem! They were all given a different set of resources, some teams did not even have a roll of cellotape! What would they do? Well, using great problem solving skills, they realised what they need to do – let’s all trade!

After deciding which resources the teams were willing to swap, the trading commenced. Team Bridge Builders said ‘We’d love to give you a pair of colourful, useful scissors’ followed quietly by ‘if we can have three newspapers’. Following these persuasive speeches a few compromises were made and the teams reconvened. It was time to get building!

The Importance of Teamwork

Part way into the task, one student noticed something outside that emphasised the importance of teamwork. Taking a look out the window the students spotted a group of fluorescent-suited construction workers. They were building a new development for Birmingham New Street Station. When observing some workers manoeuvring a crane and others commanding them from the ground, one students commented ‘They’re all working together’.

Inspired by this excellent teamwork, the students took on the role of construction workers and put their energies into making the bridges as stable as possible. Team Woodthorpe Builders realised that a rolling technique made for a sturdy structure. With one person rolling and one person sticking, they had found the winning combination!

Problem Solving Superstars

While the room was quickly transforming from piles of newspapers into impressive structures, there were a few architectural issues that needed to be addressed along the way. Woodthorpe students would have to use their problem solving skills to overcome these.

Team Olympic Stars had trouble keeping the bridge standing up, and realised that they needed to build stronger supports. One team member said, ‘We solved problems by sharing our ideas!’ Similarly, the Jumping for Joy Team realised that their bridge was not going to be finished in time. For this team, having an unfinished bridge was not an option, and so they got together and ‘Everyone gave 100%’ and by working extra hard and making sure everyone had input they completed the task on time.

Showcasing Success

After the final countdown was up, the students were ready to showcase their bridges. They explained how they approached the challenge, as well as the bits they did well and the bits they could possibly improve upon. A student from the Building Heros team said, ‘Today, I learned about BT and about building the bridge as a team’, and another team member said, ‘I like talking as a group and sharing ideas’. The last word came from the volunteers who said how much they enjoyed working with the students and could see them grow in confidence throughout the day.

Our huge thanks to everyone at BT for all your support in making this visit possible, and for the students who put in the hard graft. Travelling to BT gave the students’ insight into the careers available to them in telecommunications, as well as raising aspirations for the future. If you’d like to take your students on trips to businesses and bring enterprise learning into your school Contact Us.

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