National Highways mines Wiltshire for next generation of engineers

By Nick Batten on 12 December, 2022

National Highways has enlisted the help of Minecraft, the world’s best-selling video game, to inspire the next generation of talented tech experts, engineers, scientists and mathematicians.

Following a showcase in Wiltshire in November, schools in the county have the chance to jump in and explore the Stonehenge World Heritage Site, one of the world’s most iconic landscapes sitting on their doorstep.

As part of the A303 Stonehenge – Through the ages game, students will complete tasks as they’re taken on a historical journey, with Stonehenge as the backdrop, from the Mesolithic era through to the present day and the future with potential improvements to the current road.

Pupils from St Michael’s Primary School in Larkhill and the Avon Valley Academy in Durrington were recently part of the national pilot for the Minecraft experience, and the package was also presented to schools at Wiltshire Council’s Learning Resources Hub STEAM FAIR 2022 last month.

The event, held at County Hall, Trowbridge, was attended by 1,200 pupils and support staff and was supported by Swindon and Wiltshire Careers Hub and The James Dyson Foundation.

David Bullock, National Highways Project Manager for the A303 Stonehenge scheme, said, “We want to inspire the next generation of talented engineers and scientists, on whom the country’s infrastructure will one day depend, and it was really pleasing to see the learning tool so well received at the STEAM Fair.

“With the help of Minecraft and the in-game activities, students will get first-hand experience of what would go into building significant infrastructure such as bridges and tunnels. In real life these are multi-million pound structures that are carefully designed and built by experts. These skills and expertise help to create infrastructure that keeps us all moving, whether going to work, delivering goods or keeping families and friends connected.”  

Nicky Phillips, Headteacher at St Michael’s Primary School, added, “We used the game to explore archaeology, engineering, and sustainability. 

“This has broadened the students’ understanding of what goes into building a road and they were all really engaged. I’ve seen a huge difference in their conversational skills and it was great to see how games they usually play can be used to teach.”

Through the in-game activities students will get a sense of the range of skills used by National Highways to build some of the biggest road projects in a generation, including archaeology, biology, ecology, civil engineering, communications technology and coding.  

The educational package, which also includes National Highways’ proposed Lower Thames Crossing and A428 Black Cat to Caxton Gibbet improvement schemes, is aligned to the national curriculum and is available to all teachers and schools, the only requirement is that they have access to Microsoft Education Centre.

To discover more about National Highways’ Minecraft STEM learning package, to receive the educational resource pack or register interest in a Minecraft workshop at your school, visit the Minecraft STEM learning page.  

For further information on the A303 Stonehenge project, Wiltshire schools can contact info@a303stonehenge.co.uk. 

Pictured above: Wiltshire primary school pupils enjoying their Minecraft experience