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Big Bang Fair lights up NEC

20 March 2012

The Big Bang Fair at the NEC was designed to show youngsters the joys of science and engineering beyond school, including the food and beverage industry. It featured exhibitors such as ABB, Festo, Rockwell Automation and Siemens.

Visiting the Big Bang Fair at the NEC in Birmingham was like getting a glimpse into the future. There were stands of every variety – medical, pharmaceutical, science and technology, nature and food – all populated by people eager to see skills and training in the UK reach new heights.

Stands included those of ABB, Festo, Rockwell Automation and Siemens, among others; all these companies were trying to get the youth involved in the future of the country. One prominent food manufacturer was Nestlé, which joined up with Rockwell Automation.

The Big Bang is described by organisers as the largest celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths for young people in the UK. ''Everything we do is aimed at showing young people just how many exciting and rewarding opportunities there are out there for them with the right experience and qualifications,'' says the website.

In an exclusive interview, FP Express spoke to Mark Crawford of Rockwell Automation and Matt Stripe, human resources manager at Nestlé. ''We're estimating about 35,000 will attend Big Bang,'' Matt said before the show. ''It's a real opportunity for people to learn about food manufacturing and automation, and to enjoy that experience.

''The Nestlé-Food & Drink Federation (FDF) stand will feature a 4-foot high Smartie fountain; we'll have large plastic Smarties cascading from the tube. We've also worked very closely with Rockwell Automation on a unique interactive game that has been devised to demonstrate how the manufacturing process works.

''When you consider the vast volume of people designed to go through the show, it will really start to help the awareness and visibility of Nestlé and Rockwell Automation and of food and engineering as a whole.''

Mark says the immediate benefits of the fair are that the people attending will have fun. ''They’ll have a good time with technology and realise we do manufacture things in the UK. And I'd hope they'd start to get to know that it's technology that helps us manufacture.’’

Meanwhile, the Festo stand buzzed with eager youngsters wanting to learn more about engineering, as did the ABB stand, where experiments with the youngsters were in full swing. Another stand where the kids seemed to be having a whale of a time was Siemens.

‘’It was an inspiring day from our perspective; in many ways it’s nice to give something back, and engage with people who are interested in science and technology. All the kids were eager and interested in how everything was done.''

Then there was the ‘Farm to Fork’ section of the exhibition, where Fi Thompson, business development manager for the School of Animal, Rural & Environmental Sciences at the Nottingham Trent University handed out information on the Foundation degree in Food Science and Technology.

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