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National Highways to Inspire New Talent

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

From 6 September, students from throughout the UK will be able to jump in and explore three of National Highways’ proposed schemes, which have been created within the game.

Those taking part can learn about everything road designers need to take into account when they are planning schemes such as the proposed Lower Thames Crossing, the A428 Black Cat to Caxton Gibbet improvements, and the A303 past Stonehenge.

Throughout the in-game activities students who choose to take part will get a sense of the range of skills that are 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

Five games and a creative mode have been developed along with lesson plans which teachers can use with their students aged 7-11 (KS2) and 11-14 (KS3).

Natalie Jones, National Highways Talent Delivery Lead, said: “We want to inspire the next generation of talented engineers and scientists, on whom the country’s infrastructure and national economy will one day depend. Our ambition is to seek out the next James Dyson or Dame Sarah Gilbert and help put them on the path to a fascinating life and career.

“With the help of Minecraft and the in-game activities, students will get first-hand experience of what would go into building a huge bridge or digging a giant tunnel. In real life these are multimillion-pound structures that are carefully designed and then built by experts. These skills and expertise help to create the motorways and main roads that keep us all moving, whether going to work, delivering goods or keeping families and friends connected.”

The educational package 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.

The five activities involve:

  • Lower Thames Crossing – Tunnel Digging: Students will use a Minecraft model of the proposed LTC tunnel to learn about tunnelling and excavate and build a portion of the tunnel.
  • Lower Thames Crossing – Signs game: Using a model of a different section of the planned LTC scheme, students will use MakeCode to program road signs to respond to different scenarios, including severe weather and flooding.
  • A428 Black Cat to Caxton Gibbet improvements – Natural Habitats game: Students will use a section of the Caxton Gibbet roundabout to create a new stretch of road while keeping animal habitats safe. (*Not available at launch)
  • A303 Stonehenge – Across the Ages: Students will take an historical journey through different time periods with Stonehenge as the backdrop, including the Mesolithic Era, Neolithic Era, Bronze Age, Roman Britain, WW1, present day, and the planned A303 Stonehenge road scheme.
  • A303 Stonehenge – Biodiversity game: Using a Minecraft model of a green bridge section of the proposed scheme, students will explore the biodiversity of the area by photographing the flora and fauna in the landscape.

Megan Leckie, Co-Director at BlockBuilders Youth Engagement, commented: “We are very proud of the unique educational games we have created with National Highways, using Minecraft Education Edition. Creative platforms such as these open up a whole new world of learning for young people, where they can be directly engaged with their local environment and find out more about engineering.”

Each scheme also has a Creative Mode; this is aimed for use by schools during lunchtimes or after-school clubs. The creative game will also ask a different set of questions, with students being able to spend as much time as they want building and designing things in relation to the questions.

The Minecraft maps and games were created by BlockBuilders CIC, an expert company aiming to engage young people in planning, the environment and local history using Minecraft.

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

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