Ifield Community College and Ardingly College's STEM bus project design is now complete

GEW drives STEM Bus initiative

Updated June 2023: Phase 1 is complete – the bus has been repaired, cleaned up and graphic-wrapped. Phase 2, the interior refurbishment, is now well underway.

There is a later article on the STEM Bus project, you can read it here.

You can skip to the June 2023 update on this original article, here.

Phase 1 of our STEM Bus Project is complete… the bus has now been repaired, cleaned up and given a whole new look with a striking graphic wrap. Even the roof has been wrapped for the benefit of people in high buildings, and low-flying aircraft!

It is now being transformed into a mobile classroom and technology workshop for the benefit of two of our local centres of education… Ifield Community College and Ardingly College. The bus will also promote STEM by visiting other local schools and colleges, and through appearances at relevant public shows and events.

The interior of the bus has been stripped of almost all of its seats and the next stage in the process is the interior transformation. Pupils and staff at Ifield Community College are now beginning to convert the interior into a fully functioning workshop downstairs, while the upstairs deck will be used for teaching and briefings. GEW will offer guidance and technical support, and will continue to be involved in this exciting initiative.

Those pupils involved in the project at Ifield were invited to enter a competition to create a design piece to go on to the bus, and the competition winner was Year 9 pupil Autumn Peck. Autumn’s colourful design has been incorporated into the graphics on the rear of the bus, to great effect.

GEW delivered the fully wrapped bus to Ifield Community College on a glorious summer’s day, for its official handover to the colleges. The ceremony was attended by Ifield pupils and staff from both colleges, including Headmaster Ben Figgis from Ardingly College and Headteacher Rob Corbett from Ifield Community College.

GEW’s Managing Director Malcolm Rae, and HR Director Ele Rae, were also in attendance. Malcolm explained the reasoning behind GEW’s involvement in the project: “Our business is built upon high power electronics and optomechanical systems, with high powered LED light sources also becoming a prevalent curing source in the modern printing market. The technical development of our mercury arc, LED and excimer curing technologies have been driven predominantly by customer demand; we work very closely with customers, suppliers and ink manufacturers to ensure GEW are offering state-of-the-art technology for all print applications.

“We rely upon a wide range of skills throughout our business – the more technically aware the better. Having myself graduated in 1976 as a Mechanical Engineer I have spent my entire working career in manufacturing, with the past 31 years spent building GEW.

“When Andrew Spiers, Director of Science and Technology at Ardingly College, approached me about the STEM project I was immediately attracted to the idea. Companies like ours are built on bringing excellent technical minds into our business so it is important to enthuse young people about the myriad of ways they can become involved in careers where they use a technical education as the foundation. We have countless projects which have been enhanced hugely by bright minds working on them.

“I hope, in a small way, the GEW-sponsored bus will enable students to begin to understand how important STEM can be in determining their future and that of their world.”

STEM Bus Update | June 2023

We are pleased to provide an update on the STEM bus project, sponsored by GEW for the benefit of Ardingly College and Ifield Community College (ICC). Since its purchase, the bus has undergone significant changes, towards making it a suitable hub for extracurricular activities and educational initiatives.

ICC, a PFI school, faced a challenge in offering extracurricular opportunities due to limited access to facilities after school hours. Recognising the importance of after-school clubs in enhancing the educational experience, the bus seats were removed during the summer holidays in 2022, allowing the first of very many projects to begin, the construction of the colleges’ Greenpower car.

To ensure self-sufficiency, the bus has been fitted with solar panels, an inverter and a battery. Blue Electric Ltd. played a pivotal role in installing the battery and inverter, which will also serve as educational aids. The solar cells on the bus roof have an efficiency of 23%, generating approximately 1kW of power for the internal lighting and 13 Amp ring main.

The STEM bus at Blackpool Design Coachbuilders’ workshop, undergoing interior refurbishment.
The STEM bus at Blackpool Design Coachbuilders’ workshop, undergoing interior refurbishment.
Solar cells have been fitted on top of the bus, which can produce about 1Kw for lighting and a ring main.
Solar cells have been fitted on the roof, which can produce about 1kW for lighting and a ring main.
Benjamin Piggott (Solar Intern) working with ICC pupils in the bus, assembling the Greenpower car.
Benjamin Piggott (Solar Intern) working with ICC pupils in the bus, assembling the Greenpower car.
The battery and inverter installation will supply green power and serve as an educational aid.
The battery and inverter installation will supply green power and serve as an educational aid.

Further improvements have been made, including the installation of a new Engine Management system. The bus was then taken to Blackpool Design Coachbuilders Ltd., where it is undergoing refurbishment. The lower floor will serve as an assembly and laboratory space, while the upper floor will be transformed into a teaching and design room.

The bus is expected to return to ICC in August and will primarily be used for after-school clubs, enriching the educational experience of ICC students four nights a week. Furthermore, at least 19 visits to local primary schools are already planned for next year. During these visits, sixth formers from both colleges will demonstrate experiments using equipment not usually available in primary schools, to complement their curricula and to kindle an interest in STEM subjects.

Moreover, the bus holds a unique purpose in supporting students who have struggled with attending school. Plans are being developed to temporarily station the bus in remote locations, such as the nearby Ashdown Forest, where students can be gradually reintroduced to lessons and teaching, offering them a gentle path back into the classroom.

With the completion of its refurbishment, the bus will showcase its capabilities at ICC and Ardingly, embarking on a comprehensive program of events that will continue to expand each year. This project highlights GEW’s commitment to empowering students through hands-on learning experiences and fostering a passion for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

You can learn more about GEW’s other charity and sponsorship initiatives here.