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Show of forces

An exhibition at the Birmingham NEC offers a host of innovations, writes Mike Levy

Battling robots are one of the new features at this year's Design and Technology with ICT Education Show at the Birmingham NEC, November 18-20.

Visitors can cheer on featherweight fighters (weighing in at 12kg) and the mighty 100kg heavyweight brutes famous for their mechanical maulings on BBC's Robot Wars and Techno Games.

When those shows were taken off air, presenter Ian Lockhart and some colleagues decided to keep encouraging young people to design and build robots. The result is that school robot clubs are growing apace and the show sees the launch of the first-ever Robotic Games to be held next year.

"Young people love designing and building robots and this gives them a real competitive start," says Ian Lockhart, who travels the country helping schools to set up robot-building clubs. He will be on hand to answer any questions.

"Robots are an exciting and fascinating introduction to design, robotics, electronics, engineering and mechanics for children," says the show's director Peter Dicker. "We hope the demonstrations inspire visitors to find out more about robotic projects in their own schools so that demonstrations in future years can be even more spectacular."

Visitors can register their interest in next year's games in which students from Year 6 and upwards will compete to build robots that walk, swim, climb, jump, fight, race, play football and box.

This nationwide event is sponsored by Young Engineers and heats begin next May. "We already have 200 schools that have expressed an interest," says Peter Dicker, "and with little publicity so far - I think we may have created a monster."

Another innovation is the Under Wraps area, where you can find new products and resources. It will showcase machines, books, pens, even examination syllabuses that have been on the market for less than 18 months.

This a great opportunity for schools that have been commended for their DT work. Take the students and staff from Newton CE Primary School in Shrewsbury, for example. Year 5 and 6 pupils will work on textiles on Thursday (November 18), investigating and designing hats based on a recent school trip to the Hat Museum in Salford. On Friday, six pupils and staff will work on mechanical control, and on Saturday children will focus on computer control.

More best practice from Bromsgrove School will be on show. Students and staff will demonstrate the benefits of their cutting-edge art, design and technology centre. The school will display a selection of work across the key stages, including projects from GCSE and A-level coursework. KS3 pupils will show wood, metals and plastic skills and A-level and GCSE students will show pro-desktop and drawing techniques.

The Focus on Food Cooking Bus, supported by Waitrose, will also pull into the NEC. The mobile classroom, complete with cookers, fridges and microwaves, will offer a practical workshop each day, and provide professional development in teaching cooking skills for primary and secondary teachers.

The show hosts more than 120 exhibitors and covers the whole curriculum: resistant materials, electronics, CADCAM, control, food technology, graphics, engineering, exams, systems and control, and textiles technology.

There is a free programme of lectures and seminars for teachers and good-practice demonstrations from primary, secondary and higher education.

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