Schools wanted as Design & Make challenge returns to raise manufacturing’s profile with young people

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One of the UK’s leading independent events for engaging young people in engineering is returning for the first time since Covid-19 struck.

The Design & Make Challenge, which is organised by the Manufacturing Assembly Network (MAN), will take place on July 12th at the WMG Academy for Young Engineers in Solihull and is on the hunt for additional schools to take part.

Nearly forty Year 11 and Year 12 students from nine schools have already added their names to the list to win the main title and a selection of industry prizes.

The concept is simple; one day, one brief, but many possible outcomes. Students are challenged with designing and making a mechanical device (details revealed on the day) using just basic tools and materials.

They’re offered support from apprentices and engineers from the nine MAN companies and are encouraged to develop their ideas through trial and analysis.

The devices are then tested by a suitably qualified panel of engineers, with prizes awarded to the schools under three different categories – Efficiency, Innovation and Manufacturing.

“Manufacturing has long been the poor relation of career choices and we have to do something to change that and prove to young people that industry is a great path – full of innovation and technology,” explained Austin Owen, owner of Grove Design and one of the main driving forces behind the day.

“That’s why the nine firms that make up MAN decided to stop waiting for other people to act and came together to create the Design & Make Challenge in 2018 as the best possible way of engaging with Year 11 and Year 12 students considering their options.”

He went on to add: “The day is all about bringing sound engineering principles to the fore to solve a topical industrial issue, with young people encouraged to work together to innovate designs and then build a product they can test against their peers.

“Engineers from member companies will be working with the groups and talking about their own experiences following a career in manufacturing and some of the skills they may need to realise their ambition.”

Formed in 2006, The Manufacturing Assembly Network is made up of Alucast, Barkley Plastics, Brandauer, Grove Design, James Lister & Sons, KimberMills International, Muller Holdings, Nemco and PP Control & Automation.

The eight sub-contract manufacturers and specialist engineering design agency form a unique global collective that works together to share best practice and secure contracts for UK industry.

It is the third year that the group has held the Design & Make Challenge and earlier competitions have resulted in 352 hours of hands-on manufacturing experience for young people, seven MAN company visits completed by schools and over £25,000 of press coverage to raise the profile of the sector.

Austin went on to add: “Nine teams have already signed up for this year’s competition, including Alcester Grammar, Gospel Oak, Great Wyrley, John Taylor, Lawrence Sheriff, North Leamington, Southam College and WMG Academy for Young Engineers.

“We have spaces left for two more teams, so it would be great if any schools, who may be looking for an external STEM challenge, get in touch to take part. This will mean we’ll have over 45 students and our biggest ever Challenge.”

To take part, please visit  or email