Posted By : STEAM TEAM - March 2020

Supporting 80+ Schools Through FIRST® LEGO® League: An Interview With Ian Green From Nissan Skills Foundation

Nissan Skills Foundation Partnership

In a long term partnership CreativeHUT have been working with the Nissan Skills Foundation to bring life changing STEM experiences for children aged 4-16 in the North East. As a delivery partner of First® LEGO® League - A global program that involves robotics competitions an interest in real world themes and the development of key skills that are crucial for future careers. Throughout First LEGO® League® young people work together to explore a given topic and to design, build and program an autonomous LEGO® robot to solve a series of missions. During each FLL event Nissan have relied on CreativeHUT to provide resources & training, facilitation of events, educator support, judging and scoring. We first got to work with the Nissan Skills Foundation in December 2019 when we were fortunate enough to be invited to work with Ian Green the Senior Controller and Section Manager at the Nissan Skills Foundation and his team. Since that time we have been able to attend 2 events held at the Nissan Skills centre, which included over 90 schools in 2020.


Over the last two years, putting on the FIRST® LEGO® League has been a struggle with all the restrictions in place. However, this didn't stop the amazing teams involved ensuring the opportunity wasn't lost for schools and their students. We've been able to support the tournaments the last 2 years by hosting them virtually and working together organising schedules to ensure all students, teachers and volunteers had everything they needed to take part in this global STEM challenge. This year's virtual event was a huge success online and 16 schools were able to take part, a huge achievement by itself. Our very own trainer and judge, Neil Taylor, spoke on how amazing it was seeing these skills in action and some of the builds the teams created 'blew him away'.

“One of the young learners, was terrible for attendance, but he never missed a session when doing the workshops”

Ian Green - Senior Controller and Section Manager

You can read our transcribed interview below:

Tell us a little bit behind your role and the kind of things you do at the Nissan Skills Foundation. 

I head up the Nissan training area, so I look at the process of technical training at the global training centre which includes Africa, the Middle East and Europe and the Nissan Skills Foundation which is our large-scale education program. 

How did you first get involved with LEGO® education and First LEGO® league? 

So it started by accident really, three years ago we got a little bit of funding after winning a best community program in the North East and basically we hired a guy in, bought 12 Mindstorms robots and used them with some primary schools in that year's competition. Well that was the kick off for us.

What is it about LEGO® Education and Mindstorms EV3 that provides the opportunity for kids to really develop 21st century skills? 

A key thing for me is that a lot of young people are very worried or believe that they are not good at maths or they are not good at problem solving or they're not good at science. Actually, the key thing with LEGO® is that it's LEGO®, so they've played with LEGO® for a long time, it gives them the skills and the tools they need: if they can just put the thing together again, they've then got to learn how to programme it. As long as somebody can build it, and if they've got somebody in the team who is good at programming, not everyone has to be a superstar brainbox but a lot of people can get involved and have a positive experience with it. 

In the first year you managed 40 schools, second year closer to 90 what led to such an ambitious increase in the project? 

The big thing for me was just the response we had, so when we did the first 12 schools, it was really well received which is why we decided to go for the full competition. Just a conversation with one of the teachers this year, I said "What impact has it had?" And he said "We run this as an after school and lunch time competition and what we found was one of the young learners, he was terrible for attendance, he never missed a session when they doing the workshops". So, actually having access to the technology, something outside of school life he didn't have, he was really attracted to it and it was life changing for him. So, after the school won one of the spaces at nationals, the head teachers would even cry when they won. He just said "We are taking kids out of a mining village and taking them to the national finals in Bristol", so it's a phenomenal achievement for them.

"After the school won one of the spaces at nationals, the head teachers would cry"

What skills do you see being developed that you hope will be inputted into the future workforce? 

Yeah there's obviously the creativity side so they have to be a little bit creative, and there's the problem-solving side but not in a mathematical way, so they have to solve problems and deal with things that go wrong on the day. But there's also the really important side like team-working, it's building their confidence because that's actually one of the issues we have with young people. They come in and they're used to being in their room, they're glued to their phone, but actually they don't interact with people, but they have to interact with part of the competition. It's all positive, everything we've said. 

What are your plans for next year's competition? 

So, when we started first year, we had 43 schools, this show has 75 schools, next year we've got 90 teams and that's 90 will turn up on the day, so there will be a lot more teams than that registering. I really want it to be full. If we grow bigger than that, we'll make it bigger but I want to build on what we have achieved. The key thing for me is we've now got a really good regional final and I want to start being competitive at nationals and ideally, I want to get kids competing at the world finals so ideally that would be the ultimate achievement. Getting to the world finals is a win for them. They don't have to win there but I would love for us to get to the world finals. 

What was it like to work with CreativeHUT? 

CreativeHUT were great, my team are used to running big events and we host a few of the finals for the competitions but we don't understand this. So, this is new to us, it changes every year, and actually we couldn't have done it if we hadn't had the CreativeHUT team there to help us along, guiding us, basically running it for us. We were there, you held our hand, it gave us the confidence to have a fun event. Even if the teams didn't win, they still walk away thinking really positive and that's a key thing for me. 

If you could describe FIRST® LEGO® League in one word or two words, what would it be? One word? 

I would say it would be educationally-fun. So it is educational but I want them to have a fun experience because I think that's a key thing, so that the youth can see that engineering can actually be fun and it is challenging, it's different and that's what we want the kids to come in and to see, that they can have a career in this industry and not just a job.

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