STEM Academies

Truro and Penwith College has worked tirelessly to become a national leader and outstanding provider of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

An incredible 51% of STEM A Level and Extended Diploma provision is taught at Truro and Penwith College. And with each and every student benefitting from what Ofsted called “inspirational and highly-skilled teaching with exceptionally well-developed facilities” it is clear to see why so many of our students go on to achieve great things in the field of STEM.

This provision is also one of the main reasons why we can give our students the best access to industry-leading organisations and people. We are hosts to the South West’s educational co-ordinator for the renowned Royal Society of Chemistry, we have Institute of Physics (IOP) Lead School status and we were selected as one of the first Maths Hubs in the country - helping to improve attainment, progress and participation in mathematics through high-quality teaching, learning and leadership. This unrivalled provision also attracts industry leaders looking to share their knowledge with our enthusiastic and well-supported students. Visits have included the former leader of Experiments at CERN, now Director of Particle Therapy at the Cancer Research Institute and Oxford Professor Ken Peach, and the University of Cambridge’s Dr James Grimes, who have both given invaluable insights into how to excel in the field of STEM.

Each summer, a number of our students are placed with one of the most prestigious STEM schemes in the country. Much of the Truro and Penwith students’ work with Nuffield Research Placements is so cutting-edge that it is classified due to commercial sensitivities. Rachel Delourme, STEM Advisor, Nuffield and Sustainability Co-ordinator at the College, said it was an “opportunity for students to take part in exciting, cutting-edge, world-class research”.

Truro and Penwith College seek to extend students’ interest and understanding in the STEM subjects beyond the scope of the IB, A Level and Extended Diploma courses offered. We have a number of extra-curricular opportunities available to our students, which are grouped as the STEM Academies.

Biology Academy

The Biology Academy allows students in their second year of study to extend their understanding on a range of topics beyond the scope of the classroom lectures in the subject. Current issues in the news, recent publications and cutting-edge research can be debated, discussed and investigated.

The British Biology Olympiad challenges and stimulates students with an interest in Biology to expand and extend their talents. It enables students to demonstrate their knowledge and to be suitably rewarded and publicly recognised by the award of medals, certificates and other prizes. It is hoped that competing in the Olympiad will encourage students already interested in this valuable, wide-ranging and rewarding subject to continue their study beyond A-level and IB. The BBO consists of two one hour multiple choice papers to be taken online under staff supervised exam conditions. Students may then have an opportunity to progress further to national or international competitions. It is expected that competing in the Olympiad will encourage students already interested in this subject to continue their study beyond A-level/IB.

Chemistry Academy

The Chemistry Academy supports students to explore their interest in Chemistry further. Chemistry students can be entered for the Cambridge Chemistry Challenge Lower Sixth competition at the end of their first year. The first round is a written exam which is sat in June, and those who perform best will win an invitation to a residential camp at the University of Cambridge at the end of August. Second year students work towards competing in the Royal Society of Chemistry: UK Chemistry Olympiad. Round one consists of a challenging written test of chemical knowledge which is sat in January. Gold, silver and bronze certificates are awarded to high-scoring students, while the top-performing students from participating UK schools are chosen by the Royal Society of Chemistry Olympiad Selection Committee to progress to Round two. Questions are based on real-world chemistry problems that often stimulate much debate, raising awareness of what chemistry is all about. They are also an opportunity to develop and showcase some of the skills required for studying Chemistry at university and beyond.

Physics Academy

In Physics students have the opportunity to enter a number of competitions each year.

British Physics Olympiad Competition

  • The British Physics Olympiad Competition rewards excellence in physics through solving complex physics problems. Students could progress to represent the UK in the International Physics Olympiad. Students gain a better understanding of using mathematics to solve complex physics problems by working towards this competition.

British Physics Olympiad Experimental Project

  • Students work either in groups or individually on an open experimental brief set by the British Physics Olympiad. They plan an experiment, carry out trial experiments (and make modifications if required), collect data, carry out a detailed analysis, draw conclusions and evaluate their projects. Projects are written up and the best one in the college is submitted for the national competition.

Competitive Physics Project

  • A physics based project that involves researching and developing investigative and theoretical skills and presenting ideas. Projects can be presented at the Big Bang Fair (South West), and entered into the National Science and Engineering competition. Certain projects are eligible for a CREST Award.

British Astronomy & Astrophysics Olympiad (BAAO)

  • The British Astronomy and Astrophysics Olympiad is a new project that has formed within the BPhO trust. It offers schools across the UK a series of competition papers that focus on astronomy and astrophysics. Students are invited to take part in this competition if they have performed highly in the British Physics Olympiad.

Mathematics Academy

Mathematics students have the opportunity to enter for the UKMT Senior Mathematics Challenge and those who achieve very high scores may progress to the Senior Maths Kangaroo or British Mathematics Olympiad. Each year four students represent Truro College in the UKMT Senior Team Challenge, success in which leads to representing Cornwall at the National finals in London.

In maths, the STEM academy also stretches and challenges students by working on problem-solving activities, which take them beyond the scope of that covered during class lectures. This is then extended towards preparation for University Admissions tests in Mathematics (TMUA, AEA and STEP papers). These are nationally recognised additional qualifications, which are essential for applications for an increasing number of Maths degrees.

Computing Academy

Run in partnership with local businesses, the Computing Academy enhances students’ technical skills and employability, preparing them for a career in the fast-changing field of computing. The Academy aims to build students’ computing abilities in a wide range of areas to allow for a breadth of opportunity and development.

Topic 1: ethical hacking

  • This topic introduces students to the exciting world of computer security and forensics. Students shadow a real life target, gathering intelligence and collating evidence that could be used to gain electronic access. Students then map the real target's network remotely, identifying the types and names of those network devices and undertake cyber-attacks. Students will cover: packet injection and password retrieval; DoS attacks; DDoS attacks; reverse TCP connection via simple Trojan viruses; cryptography and steganography.

Topic 2: 3D virtual reality and games design

  • This topic will give you an introduction to the skills required to develop 3D video games. The course will start off with a grounding in the Unreal Engine 4 game engine, where you will use blueprints to create a 3D virtual reality walkthrough that will be exported to the Oculus Rift VR headset. We will then investigate how to add gamification elements in order to create a 3D first person gaming experience. The final part of the course will introduce game programming using C++ to control the gaming elements in greater depth as well as the mathematics and physics that are vital to creating a fully functioning video game experience. By the end of the course we will have covered: Unreal Engine 4 blueprints; virtual reality development for the Oculus Rift; C++ programming for UE4; mathematics for game development; physics for game development.

Topic 3: software development

  • This topic will provide you with the necessary skills to undertake a project in which you will send a Raspberry Pi computer to an altitude of over 80,000 feet attached to a helium balloon. The Raspberry Pi will take pictures, log sensor data and transmit its coordinates live to the students before descending back to earth on a parachute for recovery. The topics we’ll cover include: RTTY radio transmissions; controlling a GPS module; logging sensor data; storing high altitude images.

Local employer involvement

Local employers will present information to the Academy group regarding their business practices, latest developments within the computing industry and employment opportunities. A number of work experience places will also be available.