Call // 01223 781 296

Marshall task Sixth Form students with the water pump challenge!

Engineers at Marshall Aerospace and Defence group welcomed Year 12 students from Comberton Sixth Form and Hills Road Sixth Form to take part in the drone-controlled water pump challenge as part of this year’s Cambridge LaunchPad Scholars programme. Through providing students with hands on experience within the STEM industry, Cambridge LaunchPad aims to inspire young people to think about the possibilities available to them in their future careers.

The students were chosen from teams who had applied for the project day with a short presentation outlining their knowledge of gas turbine engines and fire suppression in the aviation world. Teams were tasked to complete a research project on an aircraft accident to get them thinking about the challenge set by Marshall ADG to develop a programmable drone that will carry a water pump to an aircraft fire on the ground.

During the day Marshall aimed to guide the students through the product development process and show them how these products are currently being used in engineering. The activities were split across two days to allow students to 3D print their own designs.

Stuart Hossack, Engineering Director, Marshall Aerospace and Defence, said:

As always we were thoroughly impressed by the quality and enthusiasm of the students who took part in this latest Launchpad event with everyone engaging and working really hard across the two days of activities. Attracting the very best talent is critical to the future of not just Marshall but the wider Aerospace and Defence sector and we hope that by giving more young people the opportunity to experience our work first hand we will encourage them to consider engineering as an exciting and rewarding career choice.”

In the first session students thought about the initial design of their pump including the shape and number of blades on their propeller. Using MATLAB they were able to explore parabolic models before creating their final design using advanced 3D modelling software. Once the students had completed the design of the pump, they moved onto programming the drone using electronics platform Arduino.

Across the second day of activities students were given time to finalise their programming and validate both the drone and the pump before testing their product for the first time. Each group then competed to be the fastest response team to the aircraft fire with the winning team combating the emergency in 1.27mins! As well as applying engineering principles to product development, students also got the chance to visit the 727 MAX Simulator and try their hand at flying an aircraft.

Aly Champion, a student from Hills Road Sixth Form College, said:

“I really enjoyed my day today. It was really nice to be able to work with real life engineers and actually be able to problem solve with them. The best part was working with the drones and optimisation for an actual product was really interesting as I think it really reflects well on the engineering process.”

Over the course of the day, students were encouraged to think about the skills needed within engineering such as problem-solving and communication. The team who worked best to develop their ideas and communicate effectively as a team were then invited back to attend the annual Cambridge LaunchPad award ceremony to be held at the end of the academic year.

Molly Askham, STEM Outreach Co-ordinator at Form the Future CIC, said:

“Cambridge LaunchPad is a great initiative not only to allow progression for young people within STEM subjects by providing real life application to what they learn at school, but enable employees to develop their professional skills such as project management and leadership. The engineers at Marshall are always so enthusiastic about their work and design inspiring project days for everyone involved.”

If you want to find out about how you can get involved, please visit:


Register to volunteer

Thank you for choosing to become a volunteer with Form the Future! In order to join our volunteer community and get yourself involved in some of our events, please follow these steps:


  1. Click the button below and complete the Registration Form
  2. Upon receiving your completed form we will create a Volunteer Profile for you then send you log in details and information on how to sign up for volunteering opportunities
  3. You can then sign up for volunteering opportunities at your leisure!


Our goal is that all young people move successfully from education into employment. As a social enterprise, we are reliant on grants and corporate funding in order to work with the schools across Cambridgeshire. Even the smallest donation helps us to provide careers inspiration for every child. Click below to find out more about what your donation could do for young people in your community.