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INSPIRING youngsters into engineering is the driving force behind a soapbox derby event next year, which it is hoped will put Westbury on the map.

 The event, scheduled for May 22nd 2021, will see carts made by secondary school pupils and remote carts by primary school children raced downhill  through the countryside near the White Horse.

An engineering fair and stalls will also feature to introduce students to the industry, with a view to linking them up with future apprenticeships at the area’s numerous firms.

Westbury Town Council events manager Ryan Child told councillors at the town council’s last policy and resources meeting that providing Covid-19 restrictions had been lessened by the planned date, the derby would be good to go.

“This is not meant to be just an event on the day,” said Ryan. “It’s always been about STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and an introduction to STEM  for the young  people of Westbury.”

Recorded workshops and  an introduction to coding designed by American aerospace corporation Lockheed Martin, have already been shown to two local primary schools. 

Ryan explained, “Any schools could download it and use it using a website called Scratch. The Scratch link could easily be sent to schools within a 15-mile radius. It was good to be able to keep a glimmer of this event going during lockdown when everything else came to a standstill. 

“The event  is scheduled for May 22nd 2021 – we are hoping that if we have something planned, at least if restrictions are lessened, we’ll be good to go.”

The derby will be held at Long River Walk and the council has had permission from landowners and help from Wiltshire Council regarding insurance and how the event will look with Covid-19 restrictions in place. 

Westbury College of Engineering, and secondary schools including Matravers have expressed an interest in being involved.

Ryan told the meeting, “We have an unbelievable number of engineering companies and five of them are global, and it’s how we get the kids linked up with them and given apprenticeships and show them engineering is really interesting and it’s everything we do. 

“That’s the objective, the driving force behind it.”

Also interested in being involved, members heard,  are The Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and the Dyson Institute. And Lockheed Martin could provide a simulator for children who can’t attend.

The event will also encourage visitors to enjoy Westbury’s neighbouring countryside. Ryan said it was saddening that, according to recent statistics, the local population was the least satisfied with their natural environment than anywhere else in Wiltshire, with 42% saying  it had got worse.

“It’s very important to get people back out into the countryside,” he told the meeting. 

“The White Horse and fields are very beautiful and we can make it very picturesque, and it’s about getting the community out to an event that Westbury can be very proud of. 

“It will lift the spirits of everybody who has been involved, and a good laugh. . We’ve set the price at £2 maximum so anybody can come.”

He added that the idea is to publicise the event as far and wide as possible. 

“I think we are all very excited about it,” said committee chairperson, cllr Jane Russ. 

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