How to build a Box

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Back in the summer of 2021 we took a call from our Trustee Naomi Timperley and associate (now DISC Governor) John Sibbald. They’d been alerted by the Institute of Physics (IoP) to a call to action to get more young people engaged in physics and their Limitless campaign, and help them in turn to ‘change the world’. A pretty straightforward and clear brief then to three people who had 2 GCSE physics between them. We needed help. 

Both being very connected individuals we soon put together a partnership of DA as Training Designers, with Tim Griggs from Arup Engineer, Maria Stukoff from University of Salford (UoS) Maker Space, so the UoS connection was strong and vital to the future of the project; though we didn’t quite know it at this point. 

Tim Griggs was vociferous about young people being the key to the delivery of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) and that we could use physics and science more generally, to get young people engaged. The Sustainable Box concept emerged out of ideation sessions where we threw stuff at the metaphorical wall until it stuck. The idea of a ‘blank space’ onto which you could apply experimentation morphed into The Sustainable Box idea – a cuboid space that could mirror a house but be transplanted into the classroom took hold. 

12 frustrating months and two rounds of bidding later we were politely declined funding by the IoP for focusing too much on the UNSDGs and not enough on their Limitless campaign…hey ho, them’s the breaks as they say, and maybe sometimes things work out for the better. 

Enter Friends of Energy House 2.0 and an opportunity at the end of 2022 to get some funding that would at least help us build a prototype Box and test it with young people at Key Stage 3 General Science. 

By early 2023 the team that included Arup Engineering teams led by Tim Lawless, UoS Maker Space, Energy House 2.0, and all-round tech genius Damion Payton from Hive, were charging through a series of Design Sprints managed by Naomi Timperley in her own inimitable style. By the summer of 2023, we specified the box, the training format and even what had become the box challenges set by Arup Engineers. It was all still on the drawing board and now needed to be made real. Over to Maker Space. 

Product design is where art, science, technology and engineering meet and make something new, and often something special. In the background, Ezra was getting ahead of himself and working with the team at SENDCode on the brand and brand guidelines. He knew it would work and was just getting on with it. The Maker Space team of George, Aidan, Michael and Maria Stukoff, are meticulous in their method and took their time to get it right. We got two boxes for the price of one. A model house where you can change materials in walls, windows and rooves, inside a control box that can measure temperatures, emissions, light and efficiency of the house inside. 

Hazel Wood High School Students conducting Solar power experiments with trainer Damian Payton.

The Sustainable Box Project is the Energy House in kit form, in the classroom. It brings to life the UNSDGs in the form of live challenges, ongoing experimentation in the classroom and solutions developed by young people. It links schools with industry and wider societal change in a creative, interactive and engaging way. We want to teach STEAM skills to year 7 and 8 students using a proven industry-led approach, and to enhance the delivery of KS3 General Science GCSE whilst raising awareness of and engagement with the UN SDGs.  It encourages diversity by targeting girls, excluded groups and communities. It connects Energy House with classrooms across Greater Manchester and beyond; it releases capability and skills from groups that may not otherwise engage with Energy House, Science and the UN SDGs. 

In November, Ezra, Damian, Paul and John piloted the Box in three schools and the results are coming in. Hazelwood High School in Bury, Loretto High School in Chorlton and Stretford High School have all had an opportunity to play with the Box and respond to the Arup challenges. 

The students run experiments, come up with solutions, make short films to share across a community of young climate scientists. It went down a storm; stood up to 100 kids getting their hands on it and was loved by all. It’s brilliant, engaging and fun! They can’t wait to visit Energy House 2.0 for real later this year. 

We want the Box to be a fixture in science classrooms across the UK, bringing science and the UNSDGs alive for the next generation of climate scientists. We want the Box to provide the platform for a new way of learning, of hands-on experimentation for a generation of young people who can share their solutions with each other and with the world.
We want to work with people and organisations that share our vision for The Box Challenge and can support us to get it out into the world. If you want more information about how you can support this contact [email protected]