Pupils build a robotic scarecrow

Pupils have given themselves something to crow about, winning a national engineering competition with their ingenious invention of a robotic scarecrow.

It's proof that nothing stands still in life - even the ancient science of bird-scaring.

These pupils have really given themselves something to crow about, winning a national engineering competition with their ingenious invention of a robotic scarecrow.

Forsaking traditional sticks and rags, the youngsters from Fairhaven Primary School, South Walsham, near Yarmouth, built a novel scarecrow with moving arms made out of old windscreen wipers.

Pressing its green credentials, headteacher Mel Fearns said: 'All the parts are recycled and it is powered by an old car battery.'

The pupils, aged nine to 11, developed their brainchild at the after-school engineering club, along with a host of other inventions, from wheeled buggies to a catapult made out of scrap wood.

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At the national final of the Engineers of Great Britain Junior Club of the Year competition, the school team won over judges with their design and impressed visitors, including Prince Andrew and television celebrities Kate Humble and Ben Fogle.

Mrs Fearns said: 'The children met Lord Sainsbury who was very interested in our robotic scarecrow and saw a use for it in some of his Far East charity projects in scaring birds away from rice in the paddy fields.

'And the Minister of Science and Technology Lord Drayson said in his speech that he was so impressed by the primary school projects that he felt the future of engineering was assured.'

The team, who won a �1000 prize to further develop engineering at the school, were thrilled by their success. Emily Bond, 11, said: 'I could not believe we'd won, it was just brilliant.' Elliott Armes, 10, said: 'It's a dream come true. To be the best in the country is amazing.' Natasha Brooks, 11, said: 'It shows engineering can be for everyone - boys and girls.'

Mrs Fearns confessed it was unusual for primary schools to have engineering clubs, but when she arrived in South Walsham she had been determined to give youngsters at the 90-pupil school the same opportunities as a large urban school.

Because engineering was an after-school club there was no curriculum pressure so the youngsters could be quite free-thinking about what was possible.

She said she was pleased that the club included more than its fair share of girls. 'If you leave engineering to the teen years, girls could be less likely to explore its potential,' she said.

The school won an East Anglia heat in June to reach the competition final at the Queen Elizabeth 11 conference centre in Westminster.

The Thursday night club is run by parent Cris Chalk and John Grayson - Mrs Fearns' husband - who both have engineering backgrounds.

Mrs Fearns said their scarecrow, based on a toy tractor, had been tested in the school field. In the future they hoped to try it out in the village's Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden.