By giving students an insight into working for one of the leading technology businesses, Cambridge LaunchPad aims to encourage them to think about the possibilities available within the STEM industry. Over the course of the day, students were led by a team of volunteers from a diverse range of job roles within Amazon. As the day progressed students had the opportunity to talk with ambassadors, all at varying stages of their careers, who were able to inform them about the wide range of education and career pathways that got them to where they are now.

Hands on tasks were designed to get students thinking about how the skills they learn at school may be used in a real-life application. These activities included learning about how Amazon use innovation to design new products and get them to market, the basics of coding language Python and creating new skills for an Alexa-enabled device.

Teams were tasked to develop a new skill for an Alexa-enabled device, that could help them in their everyday lives. Some of the ideas included a gift generator: Alexa is given some factors e.g. art lover and suggests gifts; a recipe skill: you tell Alexa what ingredients you have, and she makes suggestions.

Throughout the day students were observed on how well they had understood the Cambridge LaunchPad core values. As Innovator students take part as mixed school teams some of the most important ‘soft skills’ developed during the day were communication, problem solving and teamwork. As a key factor to the success of Amazon, innovation also played a huge part in the day’s activities. Students who best displayed and developed these attributes were invited on an educational prize trip to be held at the end of the year.

A Year 10 student from Coleridge Community College, said “It was a really fascinating day and I feel intrigued about what I learnt. I learned some basics of coding and got the opportunity to meet new people and gain new knowledge. The information I’ve picked up today will definitely be helpful in my everyday life.”

Carol Szyszlyk, Student Services Manager at North Cambridge Academy, said: “As usual this has been an amazing opportunity to work with such a prestigious company. It has enabled our students to work with other schools as a team, and also use the expert knowledge from the Amazon volunteers to build skills for Alexa.”

David Hardcastle, Director Alexa Information at Amazon, said: “We’re always looking for ways to delight our customers by making Alexa even smarter, and Cambridge is home to many talented young people with creative, new ideas. It’s inspiring to see these bright students apply learnings from the classroom to real-life innovations like Alexa, and to see the enthusiasm they have for working in the technology industry.”

Molly Askham, STEM Outreach Co-ordinator from Form the Future CIC, said “The students today showed great creativity and innovation. It can be difficult to work with others you have not met before, but every team rose to the challenge, something they will face in their working careers, and had some amazing ideas for their Alexa skills.”