Big Bang STEM Fair

Last week I represented NATS graduates at the BIG Bang STEM event for the South East, which drew crowds of around 7,000 young people aged nine to 19 years old.

The event was created to inform students about the career opportunities that could lie ahead for them if they decided to study STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects at a higher level.

The NATS stand was organised and staffed by an early careers team, consisting of myself and an industrial placement student. This meant that we could offer students useful and relevant advice on the day as we have recently been through a similar process.

I studied Computer Science at school and then Computer Systems Engineering, with a year in industry, at University, so I understand the opportunities available to engineering graduates which I hadn’t considered when deciding what to study at a higher level. On the day of the event  we wanted to inform students  about the opportunities available at NATS to university graduates and young people leaving school after sixth form; for example the Engineering Graduate scheme and the new Engineering Apprenticeship which launched this year.


Our stand included the NATS air traffic control games, which give players an idea of some of the skills required to become an air traffic controller such as reactive avoidance and spatial awareness.

We also demonstrated some of our concepts and solutions through fun activities, such as “continuous descent hoops”, which invites visitors to create a paper aeroplane and try to fly it through a series of ever decreasing hoops to illustrate how continuous descent operations work.  CDOs fly aircraft smoothly into landing, helping to reduce noise, fuel burn and emissions.

Another activity we presented was auto triangulation which shows how aircraft can be located and is frequently used by the Military within the Distress and Diversion cell at our Swanwick centre.

Designing a unique stand in terms of both aesthetics and activities on show helped keep students engaged and provided a good springboard to explain some of the engineering concepts behind air traffic control, such as radar and radio communications.

The event was really enjoyable and our stand was well attended.   The students we talked to were genuinely interested in air traffic control and what happens “behind the scenes” to make it all work.

To find out more about NATS Early Career opportunities please visit our website:


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Fantastic Tom. I am looking forward to seeing the NATS presence at the Scottish Airshow in September. With a likely attendance of 100,000 I am sure it will be a big wow in the STEM or Futures Zone


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