VSBW supports the future of civil engineering with STIXX Challenge

VSBW, a joint venture between VolkerStevin and Boskalis Westminster,  principal contractor for the Port of Dover’s flagship Dover Western Docks Revival (DWDR) development, were extremely pleased and proud to be asked to support the recently undertaken STIXX challenge at The Folkestone Academy. The event which is designed to promote interest in the civil engineering sector, saw just over 50 boys and girls, aged between 12 and 16 years, come together to pit their skills against one another to build a paper structure to a specified height and area that can support a specified weight.


The Port of Dover has awarded the £115m marine structures and bridge contract of this flagship development to VSBW, which represents a substantial part of the single biggest investment ever undertaken by the Port. Ron Eckersley, CSR manager for VSBW opened the event with Martin George [both STEM ambassadors]. They outlined the task for the day and Ron shared some of his knowledge and experiences in terms of becoming a civil engineer and the need for developing problem solving skills.  The group split into teams to work through a ‘challenge’ to design, cost and build a model for an olympic venue for the future games using STIXX and cable ties.  The STIXX are made of tightly rolled paper straws, rolled via a STIXX machine, which provided strength and height to the structures.

During the challenge, team members also took on specific project roles, as would be in any ‘real’ project – such as project manager, safety manager, planner, etc. and had to work through the plans and costings of the structures, as well as some of the challenges faced with any project.

Once completed, the structures along with the costings were presented to a panel, which was made up of Ron, computing teacher Jonathan Locker and STEM colleague Martin George; where the teams had to answer questions about their design and build specifications. The panel evaluated the structure and responses to the questions, in order to collate an overall mark and a winner.

CSR manager, Ron Eckersley for VSBW, said: "This was a fun and interactive event which everyone enjoyed, but had a serious angle in terms of project management, cost control, construction and delivery – all of which are essential life skills within civil engineering. It is great to be part of guiding and developing young people, as well as ensuring the future of our industry."

Jonathan Locker, computing teacher at The Folkestone Academy, added: "The event was good fun with the students really getting involved in all aspects of the challenge from the planning, to construction and presenting at the end. The winning team were happy with their effort and overall design.  It was great to see the teamwork between students and see them taking advice from Martin and Ron on how best to construct their stadiums."

Dave Herrod, DWDR programme director, said: "Youth engagement is an essential and important part of the contractor’s delivery for the project. Working alongside partners such as STEM is key to encouraging and educating current students about the extensive career opportunities on offer within the construction industry."