Derby schools journeyed into the world of rail at iRail 2019

Overview: iRail 2019

East Midlands schools celebrated the 10th anniversary of Innovative Rail (iRail) at the annual iRail Derby event, located for the first time at Pride Park Stadium this March.

Groups of students from 16 schools filled the Pedigree Suite with excitement and anticipation as they headed out on site trips to Bombardier and Network Rail.

Split into 2 groups, each school visited one of the sites where they explored the different roles available in Rail. Through demonstrations, presentations and walk-throughs, all students experienced a real insight into life working in Rail and the important issues that employees tackle every day.

Site Visits:

Dressed up in the required PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), the first group of schools visited Bombardier where they enjoyed a guided tour of the facility, including the working production line. Employees also shared their experiences of working in the industry and answered any questions students had.

Whilst the Bombardier tour was in full swing, the second group headed over to Network Rail. Split into 3 groups, students took part in rotational sessions which included a talk about track defects from an employee, the importance of safety on railways from a local British Transport Officer and a tour around one of only 8, £6million Mobile Maintenance Trains (MMT) in the UK.

Bridge Building Challenge:

After the site visits, schools travelled back to Pride Park Stadium for the second task of the day… the Bridge Building Challenge! Using paper, ice lolly sticks, cello tape, blue tack and scissors, students used initiative and creativity to come up with a bridge design that was strong enough to hold a toy train and wide enough so that a long load could manoeuvre underneath. They were then judged individually, taking into account the cost of materials used and the ingenuity of their design, before the final 4 teams were announced.

This year, the key sponsors for the event were Resonate and DANCOP. The challenge was separated into two competition categories, one for Resonate and one for DANCOP. Schools prior to the event were put into one of the 2 categories and judged against schools in that division.

After the final 4 teams were announced, each had to present their design to a panel of new judges to determine who was the runner up and winner for each category.

A stand-out moment for the judges and the whole venue was da Vinci Community School’s all girls team, who started their presentation off with:

“We think girls should be proud of doing engineering, it’s not just for boys!”

Oradi, also from da Vinci Community School, made the crowd smile as he admitted to being nervous because he’d never spoken infront of a crowd before, leading him to capture the hearts of everyone there. He was also the only one from his group to rise up to the challenge, which was a proud moment and great achievement for him.

The Winners:

For Resonate:

Winners – John Flamsteed Community School

Runners Up – da Vinci Community School (All boys group)


Winners – da Vinci Community School (All girls group)

Runners Up – Heanor Gate Science College

Each took away a trophy, certificate and prize for their achievements. The rest of the schools who took part also received a finalist trophy and certificate for their hard work and enthusiasm in the challenge.


Whilst the event was taking place, exhibitors from RAIB, Porterbrook, Bombardier, Resonate, Aegis, Network Rail and Rail Forum Midlands gave an insight into what they do and advice for how to take the next step to a career in Rail. They also guided students through the challenge by giving their support and expertise in the field. STEM Ambassadors from local companies also joined the day to help inspire young people in STEM careers.

Teachers’ Workshop:

Whilst students were taking part in the Bridge Building Challenge, teachers had the opportunity to take part in teachers’ workshop which entailed 3 speakers and a Q & A session. The aim was to encourage teachers to promote Rail as an industry with depth and breadth that has many different strands and a diverse workforce. The objectives were to also demonstrate the paths into Rail, what it feels like to work in Rail and the career progression opportunities available.

Thank You:

We’d like to say thank you to all the exhibitors, STEM Ambassadors and judges that played their part in inspiring students in Rail, along with Network Rail and Bombardier for providing the students with the opportunity to explore Rail careers first-hand. We would also like to thank all the teachers for their involvement in the day and of course the students who really got stuck into the challenge and made it all worth it!

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