Challenge Day focuses on sustainability

May 1, 2024

A Challenge Day was the chance for Year 10 to work with mentors to find out more about sustainable power. 

The Challenge Day was devised by our Digital Futures Programme Partner Kao Data, but was supported by other Partners from the digital infrastructure industry. * 

The first part of the day asked the students to consider why we need data centres and what the components of a data centre are – how are they powered? What is back up? How is security managed?  

The students were blown away to find out just how many monthly active users the top ten platforms have – which of course all need data centres to operate. 

While discussing this, the students kept their hands busy, creating a model of a data centre out of paper. 

Carrying on the theme of sustainability, task two asked the groups to build their own wind-powered generator – the objective being to create the most DC voltage as possible, using a fan.  

The winning team’s fan generated 1.91 volts. 

The final part of the Kao Data Challenge Day saw students using sustainable energy – wind – to build and power a sail car – the winning design being that which travelled the furthest. This was followed by a presentation on the students’ findings of the day and their further understanding of sustainability. 

Well done to our winning team, who each won Amazon vouchers.

Speaking on the day, student Mason said: “It was really fun, and helped us understand what happens inside a data centre and how important sustainability is in them.” 

Thank you to the employers, who gave some great feedback, saying: 

Mike Hook, Executive Director, LMG:  “It’s always a pleasure to work with the UTC Heathrow students on a new challenge, especially one as enjoyable as that designed by Kao Data. The insight these challenges give students into problem solving, sharing ideas and teamwork is something that a traditional school curriculum just cannot provide. Great work UTC Heathrow and thank you Kao Data.” 

Natasha Hogan, Content Creator, LMG: “It was a superb day for LMG yesterday. The session allowed us to network with a complete mix of industry experts in a new environment, learn about their knowledge, and watch the team share it with the students. As always, we loved the time with the students, and the enthusiasm brought with every session, and it was great to see them engage in all the tasks. Thank you to everyone at UTC Heathrow and ALET for the support and opportunity as always!” 

Tom Callaghan, Lead Technical Operations Manager,  JLL in partnership with VIRTUS Data Centres: “A brilliant day, where not only students learnt something but so did I.”  

Mark Blakemore, Head of PMO, Ark Data Centres: “A thoroughly rewarding and enjoyable day with an inspirational group of young people.” 

Mat Robinson, Contract Manager CBRE “I wish days like this were about when I was at school; learning in such an interactive way must be more inspiring than reading from books.” 

Brett Brown, Fire and Life Safety Manager, VIRTUS Data Centres “I found it interesting to hear all the knowledge that the students have acquired in terms of how important data centres are to our day-to-day activities; their understanding of the components used within the data centres itself and the importance sustainability is impressive.” 

Helen Kinsman SVP,  Commercial & Regulatory Affairs, VIRTUS Data Centres “I really enjoyed the day; it was great meeting with the UTC students. They seemed really engaged and came up with excellent ideas for their projects. Amazing what you can achieve with cardboard, scissors and Sellotape!”

Isa Ribeiro, Infrastructure Technical Program Manager, Amazon Web Services: “It was a pleasure to participate in such a meaningful and well organise event. Loved meeting the students! No doubt they can all become successful professionals. Aim high!!”

Mike Tamblingson, Operations Director at Kao Data summed up, saying: “Rewarding and inspiring day, thank you to all our partners/mentors who gave up their valuable time to support the students, and my colleagues Chris Small and Jonathan Keane for helping me deliver the day. And the reason we do it, the awesome Year 10s for their input, creative design and keenness to understand what we do.” 

  •  The Partners for the Digital Futures Programme include Amazon Web Services, ARK Data Centres, CBRE, CNet Training, CyrusOne, Digital Realty, Jll, LMG, Virtus Data Centres, Vertiv and Yondr.
  • The Digital Futures Programme has been created to help students develop the skills and knowledge needed to prepare for a career in the digital industries. On this programme students learn transferable as part of their engineering BTEC.
  • You can see from the quotes that the people working with our students have very different roles within their respective companies. If your company would be interested in inspiring the future generation and you’d be interested in hearing more about the DFP, please email



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