Maths and comedy launch STEMfest 2015

24 April 2015

Crawley STEMfest 2015, the biggest and most exciting event of the year for young people in the region, was launched at an evening of comedy and maths on the Manor Royal estate in Crawley.

The launch event featured award-winning comedy star Paul Kerensa and inventor Mandy Chessell CBE, the first woman ever to be awarded the Silver Medal of the Royal Academy of Engineering, and was attended by senior managers from local business and industry as well as teachers and head teachers, and representatives of further and higher education.

Students from Holy Trinity and Hazelwick Schools showed off their engineering projects, while Sutton twins Megan and Elizabeth O’Shea, 2014’s CGG South East Young Scientists of the Year, demonstrated “Science Rocks,” their programme for making science fun and accessible for young people.

Keynote speaker at the launch event, at The Base, Virgin Atlantic, was IBM Master Inventor Professor Mandy Chessell, who gained a Masters degree in software engineering at the University of Brighton and was awarded a CBE in the 2015 New Year Honours list.

She told how a visit by IBM to her school when she was 14 had ignited her passion for technology and led to a 28-year career at IBM. “A career is made on small, everyday choices rather than on one big break,” she said. “To build a career, take small steps frequently.”

Mark Collins, representing STEMfest’s headline sponsor CGG, told the audience how his global company needed students coming through with STEM (science, technology, engineering and science) skills.

“CGG is very much a company that is powered by people,” he said. “And not just people – it is powered by STEM people.”

In an entertaining interlude, comedian and writer Paul Kerensa, whose TV credits include “Miranda” and “Not Going Out,” described Crawley as the “Silicon Valley of Britain,” and mixed his love of the movies with his love of maths.

Among other mid-boggling statistics, he managed to prove mathematically that 99.65 per cent of men are called Malcolm, and that he, Paul Kerensa, was the root of all evil!

The fourth annual Crawley STEMfest is organised by STEM Sussex, the STEM support department at the University of Brighton, in partnership with Crawley Borough Council and Central Sussex College, and headline sponsor CGG. It is taking place in May and June and is expected to involve as many as 20,000 local students.

Head of STEM Sussex Bronagh Liddicoat said that this year there had been a 40 per cent increase in the number of schools in Crawley taking up STEMfest activities, and more companies were offering site visits and competitions to students.

“Events like these highlight the need for STEM skills in local business. Children's futures will be bright if they maximise their enjoyment of the STEM subjects and are motivated to achieve in the STEM subjects.  Crawley STEMfest is about enthusiasm, enjoyment and increasing their knowledge, by linking them with local employers, and showing them a range of future career paths”.

She added that STEMfest’s culminating activity, the Big Bang Fair South East, at the South of England Showground on 30th June, had seen a vast increase in numbers attending, but there were still opportunities for employers and organisations to get involved.

For further information, contact STEM Sussex Project Manager Jo McKinney-Green, tel. 01273 641874 or email

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