2020 Issue #2

DM Kineton STEM Newsletter


"Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."


Robin: Newsletter Editor

Foreword by Robin

Firstly, I must say I hope this letter finds you all safe and well during these testing times.

As you can imagine it has, along with a lot of other educational activities gone a bit quiet on the Kineton STEM front. But we haven’t seen this time as a lost opportunity merely time to adapt and perfect our current training methods to ensure that when the green light is given for the team to recommence our training, we can continue to provide the highest quality of educational learning.

Before lockdown was introduced, we managed to participate in some activities which weren’t covered when the last letter went to press.

STEM Zone Update

The Kineton STEM Zone is a fully flexible modern classroom, capable of accommodating young people of all ages, in a unique and inspiring setting. Launched in September 2019, the classroom is an integral part of DM Kineton’s Community Engagement offering. Since it's opening the STEM zone has played host to numerous groups, including the two highlighted below.

In January the Stratford Sea Cadets visited for a STEM taster session. 12 of the younger Cadets, aged 11-13, joined us for hands on Engineering and Coding activities. Utilising the MTa kits they built free standing "spiders web's" and were timed how long it took their team to pass from one side to the other. They also got to grips coding the BBC micro:bit and raced Sphero robots around an assault course. Feedback from the night was very positive and we'll be welcoming the Sea cadets back at a later date.

Also, in January, the STEM Zone played host to 12 young people on an 8-week mentoring programme, when the Kineton STEM team partnered with the DFN MoveForward scheme. Members of the Kineton STEM team mentored young people with Specific Educational Needs, through a work skills BTEC, helping to prepare the young people for employment as their time in formal educational comes to an end. At the end of each session the participants took part in a practical STEM activity which they all enjoyed and helped to develop team work and leadership skills.

With STEM engagements on hold the classroom has not been left empty. Storemaster Calum has taken the time to sort out our ever-growing inventory of equipment, and the classroom is currently being used by MUNS to deliver training in a socially distanced environment.


This year saw the return of the Engineering Education Scheme, a 6-month EDT programme which enables up to 6 year 12 students to work on a real-life engineering project. Partnered with Warwick School, this year the team was led by Luke with the assistance of Calum. The team were tasked with researching, designing and producing a new deployable bomb servicing stand capable of holding a 500lb warhead for maintenance. The team got the opportunity to visit DM Kineton where an inert 500lb Warhead as well as the current in use bomb servicing stand were available for them to start their initial planning. The rest of the scheme consisted of weekly visits to Warwick school to monitor progress and provide mentoring by Luke and Calum, as well as a 2-day residential workshop at Loughborough University allowing the team to produce their bomb servicing stand. The end of the Engineering Education Scheme usually involves a Celebration and Awards Day held at Cranmore Park where the team get the opportunity to showcase their project and deliver a presentation to a group of assessors. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, the Celebration and Awards Day was unable able to proceed as planned but the team did put together an excellent project report and aim to deliver a school assembly on their project before the school year comes to an end.

BMM Sphero RVR

The Sphero RVRs had their first official public exposure at the British Motor Museum where we created an assault course that tested even the best robot operator. Using our MTA kits, we created a selection of obstacles, non of which have ever been put in front of an RVR before.

This event was part of the BMM’s STEM week which involved several other engineering institutions providing some fantastic educational experiences for the myriad of children. It proved quite an appealing event for the students and received strong praise for how well the event was organized and carried out.

We used this event as a test bed for future events so we could find out the limitations and robustness of the RVRs. Although we suffered one mechanical casualty, we are pleased to say these robots have been able to perform to the highest level. The RVR’s will be a big part of our STEM engagement moving forward.

Prince’s Trust

As a Prince’s Trust Ambassador, Luke has engaged with disadvantaged young people to help them to build the basic skills required to access and retain employment. As most of them have little or no educational qualifications, it’s important that they build on their confidence and team work skills to help them to find employment. He has assisted with and led various activities to help them achieve this, such as a ‘Get into Racing Cars’ Programme, in which the young people built electrically powered go karts over the course of 5 days, learning basic engineering and wiring skills.

Luke also led an MTa workshop at their ‘Get into Logistics’ programme taster day, in which the young people got the opportunity to do 6 weeks work experience at the M&S distribution Centre at Castle Donnington, with a few of the young people, securing full time employment at the end of their work experience.

Moving forward, his aim to be part of the Prince’s Trust’s ‘Get Ready’ programme, delivering STEM activities to young people as their first step to gaining employment.

Coventry Transport Museum

A long time in the planning the partnership between Kineton STEM and the Coventry Transport Museum yielded two notable events before the lockdown. The team broke out the paint again for a fun day of painting with Sphero robots. This activity, tried and tested at Compton Verney last summer, was very well received, with over 170 individuals taking part in the activity over the course of a very busy day!

The next session saw our STEM Ambassadors deliver two stop motion animation workshops on a Saturday at the museum. These bookable sessions allowed a small group of young people to spend several hours getting to grips with the ZU3D software, learning how to design sets and animate props. After some clever post production, each of the young people produced a short movie they could all be proud of.

Upcoming Events

Although our ‘in person’ events are currently suspended we are still involved in developing new resources. We have teamed up with the DFN-MoveForward scheme, to produce a 3-week long STEM project based on the Engineering a Better World resource from the Royal Academy of Engineering which was inspired by the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation. Chris will be delivering this remotely, beginning at the end of June.

Join the team!

If you are interested in joining the Kineton STEM team contact Chris on kinetonstem@mod.gov.uk

The process of becoming a STEM Ambassador is vey easy and there is no cost to the individual. We work with young people of all ages and can tailor the STEM outreach you are involved in, to your own passion.

Useful Links:





STEM PROFILES - Sir Alexander Fleming

6th August 1881 - 11th March 1955

Sir Alexander was a Scottish physician and microbiologist. His best-known discoveries are the enzyme lysozyme in 1923 and the world's first broadly effective antibiotic substance benzylpenicillin (Penicillin G) from the mould Penicillium notatum in 1928, for which he shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1945 with Howard Florey and Ernst Boris Chain. He wrote many articles on bacteriology, immunology, and chemotherapy. Fleming was knighted for his scientific achievements in 1944. In 1999, he was named in Time magazine's list of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th century.

Fleming, who was a private in the London Scottish Regiment of the Volunteer Force from 1900 to 1914, had been a member of the rifle club at the medical school. The captain of the club, wishing to retain Fleming in the team, suggested that he join the research department at St Mary's, where he became assistant bacteriologist to Sir Almroth Wright, a pioneer in vaccine therapy and immunology. In 1908, he gained a BSc degree with Gold Medal in Bacteriology and became a lecturer at St Mary's until 1914. Commissioned lieutenant in 1914 and promoted captain in 1917, Fleming served throughout World War I in the Royal Army Medical Corps and was Mentioned in Dispatches. He and many of his colleagues worked in battlefield hospitals at the Western Front in France. In 1918 he returned to St Mary's Hospital, where he was elected Professor of Bacteriology of the University of London in 1928. In 1951 he was elected the Rector of the University of Edinburgh for a term of three years.

During World War I, Fleming witnessed the death of many soldiers from sepsis resulting from infected wounds. Antiseptics, which were used at the time to treat infected wounds, often worsened the injuries. In an article he submitted for the medical journal The Lancet during World War I, Fleming described an ingenious experiment, which he was able to conduct as a result of his own glass blowing skills, in which he explained why antiseptics were killing more soldiers than infection itself during World War I. Antiseptics worked well on the surface, but deep wounds tended to shelter anaerobic bacteria from the antiseptic agent, and antiseptics seemed to remove beneficial agents produced that protected the patients in these cases at least as well as they removed bacteria, and did nothing to remove the bacteria that were out of reach. Sir Almroth Wright strongly supported Fleming's findings, but despite this, most army physicians over the course of the war continued to use antiseptics even in cases where this worsened the condition of the patients.

At St Mary's Hospital Fleming continued his investigations into antibacterial substances. Testing the nasal secretions from a patient with a heavy cold, in 1922 he found that nasal mucus had an inhibitory effect on bacterial growth. This was the first recorded discovery of lysozyme, an enzyme present in many secretions including tears, saliva, skin, hair and nails as well as mucus. Although he was able to obtain larger amounts of lysozyme from egg whites, the enzyme was only effective against small counts of harmless bacteria, and therefore had little therapeutic potential.

By 1927, Fleming had been investigating the properties of staphylococci. He was already well known from his earlier work, and had developed a reputation as a brilliant researcher, but his laboratory was often untidy. On 3 September 1928, Fleming returned to his laboratory having spent a holiday with his family at Suffolk. Before leaving for his holiday, he had stacked all his cultures of staphylococci on a bench in a corner of his laboratory. On his return, Fleming noticed that one culture was contaminated with a fungus, and that the colonies of staphylococci immediately surrounding the fungus had been destroyed, whereas other staphylococci colonies farther away were normal, famously remarking "That's funny". Fleming showed the contaminated culture to his former assistant Merlin Pryce, who reminded him, "That's how you discovered lysozyme." Fleming grew the mould in a pure culture and found that it produced a substance that killed several disease-causing bacteria. He identified the mould as being from the genus Penicillium, and, after some months of calling it "mould juice", named the substance it released penicillin on 7 March 1929. The laboratory in which Fleming discovered and tested penicillin is preserved as the Alexander Fleming Laboratory Museum in St. Mary's Hospital, Paddington.

He investigated its positive anti-bacterial effect on many organisms and noticed that it affected bacteria such as staphylococci and many other Gram-positive pathogens that cause scarlet fever, pneumonia, meningitis and diphtheria, but not typhoid fever or paratyphoid fever, which are caused by Gram-negative bacteria, for which he was seeking a cure at the time. It also affected Neisseria gonorrhoeae, which causes gonorrhoea, although this bacterium is Gram-negative.

Fleming published his discovery in 1929, in the British Journal of Experimental Pathology, but little attention was paid to his article. Fleming continued his investigations, but found that cultivating Penicillium was quite difficult, and that after having grown the mould, it was even more difficult to isolate the antibiotic agent. Fleming's impression was that because of the problem of producing it in quantity, and because its action appeared to be rather slow, penicillin would not be important in treating infection. Fleming also became convinced that penicillin would not last long enough in the human body to kill bacteria effectively. Many clinical tests were inconclusive, probably because it had been used as a surface antiseptic. In the 1930s, Fleming's trials occasionally showed more promise, but Fleming largely abandoned penicillin work, leaving Howard Florey and Ernst Boris Chain at the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford to take up research to mass-produce it, with funds from the U.S. and British governments. They started mass production after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. By D-Day in 1944, enough penicillin had been produced to treat all the wounded in the Allied forces!

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