Michael Noonan

Queen Elizabeth’s School in Barnet, London UK

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Background

I am the current Head of Technology for Queen Elizabeth’s School in Barnet, London. I have taught in this school for almost all of my professional life, and became Head of Department in January of 2017.

I qualified in 2013 with an honours degree in Materials and Architectural Technology from University of Limerick, and moved to the UK in December of that year. Queen Elizabeth’s is a highly selective all boy’s grammar school with an outstanding track record of academic success, extra-curricular involvement and outstanding University place attainment.

The Technology Department in this school has gone under something of a transformation in recent years; moving from more traditional Design and technology to more advanced applications of the subject including 3D Printing, Systems and Control and the VEX Robotics Scheme. The subject is enjoying a major surge in popularity as a result of us staying up to date with cutting edge developments in Technology!

Picture of Michael Noonan

In Ireland I taught the core traditional subjects of Woodwork and Constructions studies, as well as the more advanced subjects of Technical Graphics and Design and Communication Graphics.

Upon moving to the UK, I used these specialisms to aid with the Graphical communication elements of D&T; including CAD, sketching, drawing and annotating of Design Ideas, as well as my Technical skills to assist with advanced examples of manufacture.

Woodworking, Building Construction and CAD are two of my major passions in teaching, but in my years of experience since I have developed a fascination with 3D Printing, Robotics and Independent Student-led learning.

I was privileged to use these passions in recent times, though establishing and leading our school’s VEX robotics Club, the schools EES teams in conjunction with construction companies like Lovell and Overbury, and leading the London Region in the manufacture and distribution of over 20,000 Face shields for the NHS with 3D Crowd.

School & Achievements

I lead a 6-person Department in the delivery of our KS3 syllabus, AQA GCSE and A-Level qualifications and our wide offering of extra and super-curricular offerings. Our KS3 syllabus offers Food Technology, workshop manufacturing skills using Wood, Metal and Plastic materials, 3D Printing, creation of programmable Arduino circuits, CAD skills, Product Design Sketching skills and experience in the Iterative Design Process.

Our GCSE and A-Level students aim to use their projects to showcase their ambition for future life, and have included examples of robotics, assistive technology, welding, mechanical and electronic systems, UAV and aircraft, electronic microscopes and even personal transport (scooters, wheelchairs and electric skateboards!).

Our pupils achieve highly in the subject, with pupils in the 2019 examinations achieving 76% 7-9 at GCSE, and 100% A*-B at A-Level.

We have had tremendous success in VEX Robotics, with over 120 trophies being won on a regional, National and World Championship level, including winning the World Excellence award in 2018 in VEX IQ, the highest accolade in this competition and the first ever UK team to win a World Title.

Our EES teams have won student and professional awards including the Big Bang Competition and The Constructing Excellence and Construction Health and Safety Group professional awards.

The Arkwright Scholarship has been achieved by many students in the school in recent years, with 6 students having held the scholarship in 2019-20. We have also had students winning independent competitions in recent times, with the BIEA challenge and Microsoft Junior Cup EMEA region being strong examples.

Special Projects

I am proudest of the development of our VEX Robotics Scheme, and the successes which all of our teams have accrued over the 4 years of the scheme to date. We managed to qualify for the World Championships (winning the National titles in all bar one section) in our first year, and then going a step further by winning the World Excellence Award in our second year.

Picture of a 3D rendered car

I am firmly of the belief that “success breeds success” in our scheme, and each and every year the appetite for competition grows; with students wanting to emulate and better the achievements of their predecessors.

The introduction of the scheme has seen interest levels in GCSE and A-level Design and technology, with our numbers swelling from 35 to 83 over 4 years. In a similar fashion, our number of teams has grown exponentially, having had 2 teams in 2016-17, we now have 10 teams with 64 students involved in a variety of specialisms. We have managed to achieve wonderful support from corporate sponsorship, including ISG, Pure Technology Group, Firefly, Kuka Robotics and Waitrose, and have invited other schools to our school for our own first hosting of competitions last year.

My favourite quote from one of our students is this; “this is the best day of my life. I don’t care if we win or not; this experience alone has been incredible”, so said a student after successfully winning their 100 team division at VEX IQ Worlds in 2019, and eventually finishing 5th in the world for the Teamwork Championship. The pure enjoyment of the competition was, for this student, the most important aspect of their taking part.

We now have our own dedicated facility for Robotics, and are hoping to continue to foster success and enjoyment at all levels in this challenging, remote competition season.