Manchester STEM education provider secures UKRI funding to generate diverse talent pool

The Blair Project, a Manchester-based black-owned STEM education provider, has been named one of 16 UK-wide projects to share £4m funding from the Driving the Electric challenge Revolution, launched by Innovate UK for research and innovation in the UK. (UKRI), to help create the workforce of tomorrow.

Using the excitement of building, testing and racing electric karts, The Blair Project engages youth and underrepresented adults, especially those from ethnic minorities and lower socio-economic backgrounds, encouraging them to pursue careers in STEM. Its programs aim to accelerate the electric revolution and equip people with skills in green technologies to enable them to fight climate change.

UKRI funding will be used to develop ProtoEV 4 Skills, a free immersive gaming application, in partnership with augmented and virtual reality specialists Fuzzy Logic Studio. The app will target gamers aged 11-19, giving them the opportunity to compete or collaborate to convert virtual gas-powered karts into the fastest, most fuel-efficient and sleekest virtual electric karts.

The app uses playful augmented reality to teach vehicle design, electric vehicle propulsion, and invention skills. Extending the reach of Project Blair’s ProtoEV STEM physics challenge, the app will engage a wider and more diverse pool of future innovators, providing links to careers in electric vehicles.

Launched by UKRI, the Driving the Electric Revolution challenge is investing £80 million in electrification technologies, including power electronics, electric machinery and drives (PEMD). ProtoEV 4 Skillsalongside the other 15 funded projects, will support the UK’s push towards a net-zero carbon economy and help develop clean technology supply chains, worth £80bn of gross domestic product d 2050.

Nile Henry, Founder and CEO of The Blair Project, said: “We are passionate about growing an army of future innovators, techies, engineers and ecopreneurs from underrepresented groups. This UKRI funding award for the ProtoEV app will help democratize and break down barriers to participation in innovation.It will allow all young people, whatever their age, abilities or background, to tinker with new technologies, discover talents they did not suspect, acquire skills relevant to industry, collaborate with others, and advance in rewarding careers through the power of play.”

Harvey Trent, Director of Fuzzy Logic Studio, said: “Immersive technologies, such as augmented reality and virtual reality, will play an increasingly important role in closing the future skills gap in the UK. The interactive nature of the final app will allow young people to engage with the world of engineering design and explore the career opportunities that are essential to achieving a net zero carbon economy. We are thrilled to partner with the Blair Project team and build on the phenomenal success of their existing physical STEM challenge.

Professor Will Drury, director of the challenge to drive the electric revolution at UKRI, said “We have known for too long that there is not just a lack of engineering skills in the UK, but also a diversity problem. By creating a free and immersive gaming app, Project Blair has the potential to introduce a new audience to the world of vehicle design, electric vehicle propulsion, and the joy of invention. I can’t wait to see how the app develops and rolls out.

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