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L3Harris Volunteers Champion STEM at Cheltenham Science Festival

Corporate Headquarters
Aug 16, 2023 | 2 MINUTE Read

This involvement began in 2019 with stand presence in the festival’s Cyber Zone, where an interactive and highly popular “Crack the Code” quiz game challenged people of all ages to test their STEM knowledge to successfully open a safe. A hit with festival attendees, the game returned and evolved in 2022 with a separate cipher challenge that saw participants attempt to decipher coded messages of varying difficulty, from easy all the way up to impossible. Led by 14 volunteers from L3Harris’ Intelligence and Cyber International – EMEA business in Tewkesbury and Fleet, the stand was once again a resounding success.

A New Approach for 2023

Early in 2023 a planning team of 13 people from Tewkesbury and Fleet took on a slightly different challenge. Working with the business’ STEM or critical talent social value pillar, they decided to try an alternative approach to the festival stand. L3Harris volunteers would instead deliver seven workshops across two days to more than 200 students from Key Stages 2 and 3, with ages ranging from 7 – 14 years, to generate more face-to-face engagement with earlier age groups.

The next step was to devise a suitable workshop format that could be appropriately tailored to the differing age groups. The key focus was to ultimately encourage an early interest in engineering, so it was quickly decided that the workshop activity should relate to the skillsets that L3Harris engineers use on a regular basis, as well as linking to a few fundamental aspects of the business’ electronic warfare and cyber encryption capabilities.

The workshops consisted of:

  1. A pig pen and Vigenère cipher for students to crack
  2. An incomplete electronic circuit to be built correctly
  3. A radio that needed to be tuned to the right frequency to hear a code and translate it
  4. Broken Scratch code that needed to be corrected to work properly

Under a theme of Mystery Code Breakers, each activity revealed part of an eight-digit code to open a safe. In groups of four, the students had to race against the clock and each other to rotate through the activities, open the safe and obtain the reward that awaited inside. The volunteers tasked younger students with rescuing a unicorn that had been captured by an evil scientist while older groups took on the roles of secret agents looking to outsmart a roguish villain.

A Lasting Impression on Local Schools

Delivered on June 7 and 9 to more than 200 students by a team of seven rotating L3Harris volunteers, the workshops encouraged strong levels of engagement, gaining positive feedback from teachers and students alike.

“Both days went really well and students seemed to enjoy and appreciate the activities we’d prepared for them,” said Andy Hill, Engineering Manager at L3Harris ICI – EMEA and a lead organiser of the festival workshops. “Some students even showed their enthusiasm by asking about how they might get into engineering which is exactly what we wanted the workshops to achieve. This was my second year supporting the festival and from that experience it’s clear the event enables us to have a valuable, positive and lasting impact on our business’ local schools and communities.”