Let Teachers SHINE winner 2023: Darren Eales – The Mars Rover Project

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Children in North Lincolnshire will compete to “put life on Mars” after primary school teacher Darren Eales won funding for his innovative space science project.

Darren, who teaches at Broughton Primary School, near Scunthorpe has received £25,000 in funding from SHINE after winning the education charity’s Let Teachers SHINE competition.

The funding will enable Darren to develop his Mars Rover Project, which will involve children from schools across the region.

Pupils will be tasked to design and program a robot to plant, grow and harvest crops on Mars. The project will target disadvantaged children who often do not have the opportunities to develop further studies outside the curriculum in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Darren hopes to “light a spark in children’s fascination in STEM” and encourage them to continue studying science while at secondary school. This, he hopes, will also inspire them to pursue careers in science and technology.

“I firmly believe all children should be given the opportunity to shine and reach their potential and I spend my time and energy ensuring that they do so,” Darren said.

“I’m passionate about science and am convinced that practical science is a great leveller and children who may struggle with subjects such as writing and comprehension can become disheartened and disengage with school.

“Projects such as this allow them to work at their own pace, with the freedom to get it wrong and work out why, whilst letting them show more creative and practical skills to solve problems.

Research shows children identified as disadvantaged are less likely to study STEM subjects, such as science, into further education and are therefore less likely to look for employment in these areas.

Darren said: “These children need to be excited about science at an early age and realise that science is about trying new things and being able to think without constraints.”

Darren has already trialled the project in his own school but now aims to scale it into other schools in the area. The culmination will be a prestigious end-of-year prestigious competition where children from differing schools can showcase their designs in a celebration event.

“This will become an annual event with more schools joining as it progresses,” explained Darren.

The teacher believes his project “removes all barriers to learning” by working both inside and outside the National Curriculum “at a pace the children find comfortable”.

The funding will enable the purchase of equipment required for developing the robots, which Darren hopes will expand children’s horizons.

“Many children from higher income families have much more access to technology at home, but the majority of disadvantaged children will have nothing like the equipment the project will be using,” he said.

“This will not only open them up to technology that is way beyond anything that is used within schools, but also show them that, given the right tools and opportunities, they can achieve above and beyond their peers.

“Although based around science, my project is mainly about opening their eyes to different possibilities and raising their aspirations and self-belief.”

Darren added: “I was absolutely delighted to win the Let Teachers SHINE award and can’t wait to get started. We have been running a trial project like this in the school for a year or so and the children have loved it.

“Now it’s time to put everything into practice and get more kids involved in science.”

Dr Helen Rafferty, Interim CEO of SHINE, said: “I am so inspired by Darren’s work to engage and enthuse children in their STEM studies. Every child deserves the opportunity to be a scientist of the future, and STEM subjects offer endless possibilities for creativity and learning.

“We at SHINE are excited to be supporting this brilliant Mars Rover project and can’t wait to see the impact across schools in North Lincolnshire and beyond.”