Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics


Laura Haxton, Teacher of Chemistry, has been appointed as the school’s STEM Coordinator to progress initiatives relating to Science, Technical Education, Engineering and Maths. This reflects the national agenda to encourage young people to consider careers in engineering where there is a skills shortage. Through careful budgeting, the school is able to fund this acting post (0.5 Principal Teacher) which means we have a key person in charge to drive forward this important development.

Already our STEM Action Plan has been formulated for 2016/17 and our key priorities include:

  • Promoting Engineering across the school through assemblies and a pupil STEM committee, with a focus on getting pupils registered ‘Membership/Chartership’ for the Secondary Engineers Institution.
  • Working with associated Primaries to arrange a STEM transition day and organise an S4 STEM day, with a focus on careers related to STEM.
  • Delivering various interdisciplinary STEM projects, such as our S1 STEM week and the Scottish Engineering Special Leaders Award. 
  • Providing a range of workshops, events and site trips across all year groups to highlight engineering to pupils and to make them think about a career in that field.
  • Promoting a wide range of University-linked summer placements to pupils who are interested in pursuing a career in STEM to help build up their experience and confidence.


STEM Day 17 November 2016

All S4 pupils were involved in a STEM day, which involved group challenges such as building a rollercoaster track and racing elastic powered cars. In the afternoon pupils also had the challenge of building tall structures which could hold a wooden block. All pupils and staff seemed to thoroughly enjoy the challenges throughout the day and enjoyed working in teams.








2015/16 initiatives included:

Edinburgh International Science Festival’s Fuselab Go event (September 2015)

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Several of our senior pupils took part in this two-day event which involved participating in workshops, talks and design projects. They worked in a small team of five to design and develop practical solutions to the challenges of establishing life on a new planet. At the end of the session they had the opportunity to pitch their creative solutions to their peers. This project allowed them to work closely with local engineers, designers and business experts.

S3 Science day (December 2015)

Our S3 Science day was jam-packed with workshops run by senior pupils, Science staff and STEM ambassadors.

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Pupils also enjoyed a space lecture by a professor from the University of Glasgow, as well as hands-on workshops from Medical Mavericks where they were able to use expensive medical equipment.

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Pupils were able to practise their keyhole surgery technique.

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As you can see, pupils were able to withdraw blood from a practice patient.

P7 Transition Science Day  (May 2016)

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During the primary 7 Science day, pupils were involved in a wide range of hands-on workshops and they witnessed lots of exciting demonstrations, such as the whoosh bottle and the Vanda-graph generator. As you can see from the pictures they also took part in an Engineering spaghetti challenge and a dissection of a cow’s lungs, heart and eye!

James Hamilton Academy has organised several site visits to highlight a range of STEM career options:

S2 Forth Road Bridge trip (May 2016)

The visit involved discussions about the three bridges, a Project Overview presentation and a construction challenge which is outlined below.

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Pupils listen to advice about working as a team. This is followed up by planning how to construct a bridge from doweling and elastic bands.

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Pupils start by constructing a tetrahedron, where all the vertices are the same distance from each other. This will become the support columns.

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More columns are added and the structure becomes larger and larger.stem 35.jpg

Now the bridge decking is being fabricated and put in place to join the columns.

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Bridge completed. It stands tall and is approximately 15 metres long and 3 metres high.

It’s a thumbs up from the girls & boys in S2. Good teamwork. Well done S2!

Thales Group Trip (May 2016)

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The Thales Group operates in a huge number of countries across the world and across a wide variety of engineering disciplines. They support aerospace and air traffic control along with defence, security and transportation. Thales employs over 68,000 people from over 50 different countries. Visiting the Thales group in Glasgow gave our S3 pupils valuable, hands-on experience and career guidance for their potential future in the world of engineering.

Salters Festival of Chemistry (May 2016)

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Some of our eager S1 pupils were selected to take part in the Salter’s Festival of Chemistry at Glasgow University. The event involved a visit to Glasgow University for a day of Chemistry in the laboratories and lecture theatres. The pupils worked together as a team of four to complete various challenges throughout the day. Great team work boys!

Princes Trust STEM visit (June 2016)

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Several S4 pupils took part in the Princes Trust STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) event at Stewarton Sports Centre. On the day, the pupils were able to take part in vanderbilt generator, telescopes and magnets/light workshops, hosted by the Kilmarnock STEM Society. Pupils also enjoyed the inflatable planetarium, where they listened to a lecture from an astronomer.


Scottish Engineers Special Leaders Awards: June 2016

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Pupils from 1P4 took part in the Scottish Engineers Special Leaders Award, where they were given the opportunity to interview an engineer to find out how they became interested in the profession and what their job role involves. They then came up with a design for an invention and produced a drawing of their design. Prototype designs will be made by students studying engineering at the University of Strathclyde for the winning ideas.

Emily Fischer and William Gilmour from 1P4 were both short listed for year group trophies for their excellent ideas and pieces of writing. Emily Fischer went along to the exhibition, where her work was on show. Well done!

Mission Discovery – Ayr College June 2016

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6 of our S6 pupils were selected to take part in a cross authority event at Ayr College. Pupils were split up into teams where they worked with pupils from other schools to design an experiment to be carried out in space! Throughout the project the teams were given the experience of budgeting and presenting their ideas to their peers and a judging panel. The final and winning experiment will be tested in space in 2017/18 with results and video links being beamed back to schools.

Here is what some of the pupils had to say about the experience:

Niamh Currie S6

I thoroughly enjoyed my week at the mission discovery programme. There were presentations given by astronauts, NASA officials, doctors working at the top of their scientific fields and more.  The presentations were incredibly inspiring and really motivated me to think about a career in STEM/NASA. Plus, I got a free t-shirt to commemorate the event!


Lauren Park S6

I had a great week at Mission Discovery. We got the amazing opportunity to meet NASA leaders and the astronaut Michael Foale. We heard him talk about his experiences on the ISS and Mir and we saw his personal videos. We completed against other teams for the opportunity to get our experiment carried out into space and my team got to the final! I met new people and gained confidence by presenting in front of 200 others and a board of experts.


Janice To

Mission Discovery is a great opportunity for pupils in the senior phase to develop and practise their leadership skills, their ability to work as a team, communication and problem solving skills. These are all skills which universities and employers are looking for in us.

I had an “out of this world” experience at this week-long summer school meeting other pupils from all over Ayrshire. I really enjoyed the presentations from Michael Foale (former astronaut), Chris Barber (Managing Director of ISSET),  Dr Julie Keeble (university lecturer of King’s College London) and Sarah Murray (Director of Robotics at NASA). Reaching the finals on our last day for a chance to get my teams experiment launched and performed by astronauts in space was great!




Nuffield Research Placements: Summer 2016



Three of our S6 pupils; Lauren Park, Niamh Currie and Janice To have been accepted onto the prestigious Nuffield Research Placement programme. They will each take part in a 4-6 week long summer placement in their chosen STEM fields during July and August. They will be based at various universities and get the chance to carry out research at university level, which will be excellent experience for them. They are the first pupils from James Hamilton Academy to be accepted into the programme, good luck girls!






Next Steps:

Getting more females involved in engineering will be a focus for 2016/17 and we are delighted that 2 of our current S4 pupils have been selected to take part in the Strathclyde University Engineering the Future for Girls summer school. Gemma McPherson and Emily Cheyne will be involved in several workshops at Strathclyde University from 20th June – 24th June 2016. Well done girls!


> Click here to see the STEM Action Plan

There is a STEM insert within December's parent bulletin.  This can be found within the Parent's section of the website.