Summer school in Thurso gives pupils the chance to celebrate Apollo anniversary

A space-themed summer school has given young people in the North of Scotland the chance to learn more about STEM careers.

Entitled Destination Mars, the three-day experience for S1 and S2 pupils was a collaboration between Skills Development Scotland’s My World of Work Live, the Science Skills Academy (SSA) and the University of the Highlands & Islands.

Held at the SSA’s Thurso Newton Room at North Highland College, the event was part of UK-wide celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the lunar landings.

Sharon Morrow, SDS My World of Work Live Programme Manager, said: “More than 400,000 people were involved in the Apollo programme, including scientists, technicians and engineers.

“Destination Mars was a great way for us to bring young people together to explore the legacy of the missions and look more closely at the space sector, to ignite their interests in careers in space and more widely in science, technology, engineering and maths.

“My World of Work Live is all about getting involved in hands-on activities to spark interests in future careers.”

Interactive workshops and activities included exploring robot building and programming, Mars’ craters and rock formations, and finding out more about the solar system. The Newton Room in Thurso is the first of its type in the UK.

The concept originated in Norway and Denmark where the learning centres have been used for more than 10 years to encourage young people to take an interest in STEM. Featuring work stations and spaces for a laboratory and a classroom, the rooms are designed to help create dynamic and inspiring learning experiences.

Destination Mars proved a hit with both the young people taking part and their parents.

One parent said: “Our son really enjoyed these days. It was great to see him engage with this event, enjoy and learn from it.

“By spending time at home looking things up, we were still being fed snippets of info over the remainder of the holidays.

“It has also dripped down to his little brother who has also been reading up on space. “We would definitely look to attend something similar in the future.”

Sharon added: “It’s great to hear about that ‘trickle down’ effect of My World of Work Live activities, with participants involving their families after an event or session.”

Ashley Healy is a STEM Engagement Adviser for My World of Work Live and ran the LEGO Mindstorms robot session during Destination Mars.

She said: “It was fantastic to see the technical skill and knowledge of the young people develop over the three days, as well as them building confidence and getting to know each other.”

Emma Robertson, Science Skills Academy Project Manager, added: “With Sutherland soon to be home to the UK’s first space port, there will be a wealth of opportunity for young people across the region to explore a future in the space sector, and this summer school could prove to be one giant leap in that journey.”

To find out more about My World of Work Live and careers in STEM industries go to