SIXTH-FORMERS showed their passion for chemistry and engineering when they took part in an initiative to encourage the study of STEM subjects.

The Year 12 students from Horsforth School took part in Dragon's Den style pitches when they presented innovative ideas to staff from speciality chemicals manufacturer, Stephenson Group. The exercise was part of the nationwide STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) programme, which the company is supporting.

About 20 students were involved in the project, presenting everything from their own branded soap and skincare ranges and devices that can test the 'hardness' of soap to a five-year green energy plan that Stephenson Group could implement onsite.

The company, which specialises in soap production for clients such as The Body Shop and employs 100 people from its production plant in Horsforth, joined the STEM programme in May 2016. The firm commits a team of volunteers from its workforce to the scheme including CEO Jamie Bentley, who help mentor talented students and encourage them to be creative with chemistry and engineering.

Paul Caden, head of science at Horsforth School, said: "What a fantastic experience this has been for every student. They have learned so much and it has been a valuable experience, offering a real insight into the world of science, chemistry and engineering. Dealing with a set budget, delivering a professional business solution to real problems and presenting their findings and recommendations to an inquisitive panel of industry representatives could have been quite daunting but they all coped with the challenge incredibly well.

Mr Bentley added: "It’s great to see chemistry and engineering being embraced by the next generation and to work with them on such an exciting, live project. With a fifth of our workforce being engineers and PhD qualified chemists, the STEM Ambassador programme is a great way for us to encourage interest in the study of science and engineering and it’s also a positive way in which we can give something back to our community by sharing our experience and expertise."