The Return of Low Carb

Installation of solar-thermal water heaters on the Big Rig

Installation of solar-thermal water heaters on the Big Rig

Yesterday I was at the Big Rig facilitating the annual low-carbon skills challenge at the Big Rig. This is the fourth year in a row that Think Up has run the ‘Low Carb‘ event. I am very proud that since we came up with the Big Rig concept, 100s of students have taken part in Low Carb.

In the event two teams compete to build a low-carbon shower, using rainwater harvesting, solar thermal water heating, photovoltaic power and greywater recycling.

The event is designed to raise participants’ awareness of low-carbon technology, and the potential for training and employment in the installation technologies. However, yesterday I was reminded that for some students, just being given the chance to learn in a highly unusual environment, and being challenged to work in different ways, is a fantastic opportunity in itself.

For example, yesterday a team of level 2 electrical apprentices took on a group of Year 10 and 11 students. I spent most of my time supporting the latter. Their teacher told me that the team leader was a student who would never normally speak up in class or demonstrate much confidence, and yet at the Big Rig he showed a different side to his character.

Each year we see teams of different ages compete with one another. What separates teams’ ability to succeed in the challenge is not their understanding of domestic energy systems, or their ability to wire a plug: it’s their ability to form effective working teams. Two years ago, when a team of civil servants took on a team of plumbing apprentices, it was the former that won the day, mainly because of their ability to analyse and solve the problem at hand working in a team.

In future we plan to develop more Big Rig events for schools. We therefore need to think carefully about how best to facilitate team working in this context.