It is the second in a network of Newton Rooms being created in the Highland region and follows the opening last week (25 March) of the UK’s first at North Highland College UHI in Thurso.
A network of Newton Rooms in Norway, created by FIRST Scandinavia, work with schools and local employers to provide inspirational STEM education in the most rural parts of the country.
The Highland Newton Rooms are being created by the Science Skills Academy, 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, The Highland Council and NHS Highland.
A new permanent STEM centre is planned for Lochaber in the next two to three years. In the meantime, an interim Newton Room has been created at Caol Youth Centre, a council-owned building managed by High Life Highland.
The centre has been fitted out with a teaching room, auditorium and laboratory for use as a Newton Room until the STEM centre opens.
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 Aberdeen Science Centre, to reach all parts of the region.
Andrew Johnston, HIE’s director for the Science Skills Academy, said:
“We are delighted to be able to open this interim Newton Room in collaboration with High Life Highland. The centre will enable young people across Lochaber to benefit from the facilities ahead of the STEM centre opening in the next couple of years.
“We are now working with partners to provide a coherent 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.”
The Lochaber centre was opened by public finance and digital economy Minister, Kate Forbes MSP, who said:
“We want people in every area of Scotland to discover STEM subjects and pursue the career and research opportunities they can bring.
“The interim Newton Room in Lochaber, supported by the Inverness and Highlands City Region Deal, will help young people to develop an interest in and enthusiasm for STEM. It’s a great development for the Highlands.
“In particular, it will help engage and involve people from all backgrounds to develop a strong base of STEM skills and knowledge at a young age. This is incredibly important in supporting STEM industries and helping to drive inclusive economic growth in Scotland.”
Ian Murray, chief executive of High Life Highland said:
“I am delighted that young people across Lochaber will be able to benefit from this innovative learning experience at Caol Youth Centre. High Life Highland is pleased to be working in partnership with Highlands and Islands Enterprise to bring a new chapter in STEM education to the area and I look forward to hearing about the differences this will make to young people in Lochaber”
Local Cllr Allan Henderson, chair of Highland Council’s Environment, Development and Infrastructure Committee added:
“The Lochaber Newton Room is another example of how the City-Region Deal is benefitting the wider Highlands at a local level. Young people studying STEM subjects in Lochaber will find their learning experiences and opportunities improved greatly now that we have this centre.”