A fusion of ideas sparked when the Deputy Managing Director of Europe’s oldest and most complex nuclear site, George Beveridge, met the world’s youngest ‘fusioneer’ at this year’s Big Bang Fair in Birmingham.
At only 13 years old, Jamie Edwards from Preston became the youngest person in the world to achieve nuclear fusion, recreating a process known as ‘inertial electrostatic confinement’ which dates back to the 1960s, all from his school’s science lab.
With funding from his school, Penwortham Priory Academy, the teen who describes himself as an ‘amateur nuclear scientist’, built the mini reactor dubbed the ‘star in a jar’ from scratch – taking the world record from American Taylor Wilson, who was 14 when he became the youngest “fusioneer” in 2008.
Now a year later, Jamie has been overwhelmed with opportunities, from holding TEDx Talks to hosting a demonstration of his project at the UK’s largest celebration of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), the Big Bang Fair.
Chatting beside his exhibit, Jamie told George how he’s always had a taste for science and is keen to become a nuclear engineer or work in theoretical physics in the future.
Jamie took the opportunity to explain to George how he created his ‘Star in a Jar’ project and asked about the different career options on offer at Sellafield Ltd.
Jamie said: “It was an honour to meet Mr Beveridge at the Big Bang Fair; it gave me a real insight into the sort of careers Sellafield Ltd offer to students like me.
“It was interesting to hear all about the company’s apprenticeship and graduate schemes and will be something I will be considering in the future.”
George Beveridge said: “It was great to meet Jamie; I was really impressed to learn about the nuclear projects he’s been creating from his science class room and I think he has a very bright future ahead of him. Hopefully I have encouraged him to consider the career options at Sellafield Ltd.
“It is essential that we get high quality and highly motivated young people just like Jamie moving into STEM related careers in the UK and events such as the Big Bang Fair go a long way to showcasing the exciting opportunities offered by companies such as Sellafield Ltd, to young people who pursue STEM subjects.”
A group of graduates, industrial placement students and apprentices from Sellafield Ltd also ran a stand at the Fair, with interactive models and activities that simulate operations on the Sellafield site and allowed children to try their hand at being a nuclear worker for the day.
The activities were designed to provide an insight into the innovative work that goes on at a nuclear facility and showcase the different routes and rewarding opportunities available in a STEM career.
Technical support graduate trainee Megan Lake led the Sellafield Ltd stand. She said: “Inspiring children to study STEM is so important to all of us – there’s going to be such a shortfall in the demand for skilled workers in the future, especially in science and engineering, so it’s vital we do what we can to nurture and develop children’s interest in STEM and set them on the right path from an early age.
“The event is also a great opportunity for the trainees to be involved in too; the company has given us a huge amount of responsibility in organising the stand, something which you don’t normally get this early on in your career. It’s a great chance to learn new skills and develop as a person.
“Being able to engage with children, it almost brings us back to why we wanted to study STEM subjects in the first place and to see that same enthusiasm and curiosity we had at that age is quite exciting!”
Sellafield Ltd understands how important it is to inspire school children to improve their own prospects and the future of the UK’s skilled industries. The company has over 364 STEM ambassadors (that’s 1.3 per cent of the UK total) and has spent more than £300,000 over the past five years paying the wages of staff while they are in local schools delivering STEM activities to 7,000 children a year.