Transport secretary Chris Grayling officially opened a new virtual reality laboratory offering young people a glimpse into what a future career in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) could hold.

Students and teachers from St Martin’s Junior School were the first to try out Atkins’ new STEM lab in the company’s office in Woodcote Grove, Epsom on Friday (May 12).

The lab uses virtual reality headsets, games, touch screens and 3D models to take virtual visitors to a ‘construction site’ and educate young people about what skills are needed, and the challenges that need to be considered when constructing a new office or building.

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Lucy, 8, Ella, 9, and Mr Grayling try out the new STEM clinic

In one room, overlooking the construction site itself, young people can
go on a virtual tour of the building, taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the development, as well as how it feels.

Visitors can also compete to build the office as quickly and efficiently as possible.

The other room features a 3D model of the new building and a looping video of interesting facts about the development, as well as information boards about the redevelopment project and the future of engineering.

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Epsom and Ewell candidate Chris Grayling said: “Close links between local employees and schools are really important.

“This STEMLAb centre will enthuse a new generation about the potential of technology for the future and will hopefully encourage them to follow a career in science and engineering.”

The STEMLab will be used by Atkins’ 150 STEM ambassadors to host young people from the town and further afield, from places such as Guildford, Richmond and Kingston.

Last year employees from the company visited 33 schools in the area to discuss engineering skills and careers.

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Mike McNicholas, managing director of Atkins’ Infrastructure division, said: “In the same way that technology is revolutionising the engineering sector, it also provides fantastic opportunities to engage the next generation of designers and engineers in a way which is more interesting and familiar, and which offers genuine insight into what they could expect from a career in STEM.

“We hope that the STEMLab will help make the vital connections between learning and careers so children can make the right choices now to enable them to make the most of opportunities in their long term futures.”

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