The Dingwall Newton Room will be officially opened today (Friday 11 March) by Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy, Kate Forbes MSP.
It is one of five Newton Rooms created in the Highlands to encourage more young people in the area into studies and careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).
The learning facility, which is located in Dingwall Town Hall, provides an inspirational setting for school pupils across the Ross and Cromarty, Wester Ross and south Sutherland areas.
In this academic term, from August 2021, the Dingwall Newton Room has already delivered 64 sessions to 1129 pupils from 24 schools in the catchment area.
They have taken part in practical activities, which complement the STEM sector found in the region, through a mixture of topics including biofuels, robotics and mathematics, renewable energy and health science.
The Highland Newton Room network has been created by the Science Skills Academy (SSA), a partnership project led by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) with £3m from the Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal.
Other organisations behind the initiative include Skills Development Scotland, the University of the Highlands and Islands, High Life Highland, The Highland Council and NHS Highland.
The other Newton Rooms are in Thurso, Fort William and Inverness, and a Pop-Up Newton Room recently toured round all Skye and Lochalsh and is currently visiting Badenoch and Strathspey.
The Highland Newton Room network ensures all 10-14-year-olds from the region the opportunity to take part in educational and inspiring STEM sessions.
The Dingwall centre was opened by Scottish Government Economy Secretary Kate Forbes, who said:
“The Scottish Government’s £3 million investment in the Science Skills Academy, through the Inverness and Highland City Region Deal, is helping develop a pipeline of STEM skills which will be critical to Scotland’s future economic growth.
“Across the Highlands, the Academy’s five Newton Rooms will inspire young people to pursue successful careers in this area – from renewables and bio-fuels to health science and robotics – and equip them with the skills they need to do so.”
Alistair Dodds, Chair of HIE was speaking at the event.
“It’s great to see another Newton Room opening in the region and we are delighted to have Cabinet Secretary, Kate Forbes to officially open it today.
“The centre aims to inspire young people across the whole of the Ross and Cromarty and South Sutherland area who are interested in STEM subjects.
“We are working with partners to provide a STEM learning experience throughout a young person’s education.
“This in turn will provide opportunities for young people to pursue careers in some of the emerging and future technological developments.”
“It’s important that we engage and involve young people from all walks of life and at all ages to develop STEM skills and knowledge in our rapidly changing world to enrich their lives and benefit the Highlands and islands economy.”
The programme was initially focused on the Highland region as part of the Inverness and Highland City Region Deal and the ambition is to build on this and for the SSA to roll out activity across all areas of the Highlands and Islands.
Organisations behind the project are developing Newton Modules that will complement the school curriculum and STEM sectors in the region.
The SSA will also collaborate with a wide range of other STEM activity providers, such as the Glasgow Science Centre, to reach all parts of the region.
Karen Cormack, head teacher at Dingwall Academy, said:
“We are delighted to have the Newton Room based in Dingwall.
“It is a fantastic learning resource and we feel very fortunate to have it on our doorstep.
“Our pupils have already enjoyed their visits and the opportunity to have such a hands-on, quality learning experience.
“We need scientists, and there is no doubt that the Newton Rooms will help to inspire and encourage youngsters to consider a career in science.”
Chair of Highland Council’s Education Committee, Cllr John Finlayson, said:
“Youngsters learn far more when the activities they are involved in are fun and engaging and the Newton Room certainly provides that.
“They provide young people with the chance to experience inspiring STEM-related activities.
“Not only are the activities engaging but they also inspire young people to develop an interest in STEM careers.
“There will be a lot of opportunities in the coming years to use STEM-related learning in our ever-expanding green sector in Highland.”
The partnership project is delivered by the SSA and is led by HIE with £3m from the Scottish Government.
The funding is part of the £315 million Inverness and Highlands City Region Deal, which is funded by the Scottish and UK Governments, The Highland Council and regional partners.
The Deal delivery is managed by The Highland Council.