The Arkwright Scholarship is a scholarship availiable to pupils at UK schools of age 16 (For those of you unfamiliar with the UK school system, 16 is the end of compulsary education. If you want to go to university, you can do a variety of different things, like stay on for two years doing A-levels). It aims to encourage pupils to study technology-related subjects at A-level.
The award is £1000, over two years, divided equally between school and pupil. That is, if you get it, you get £500. It is also considered very prestigous; it only goes to the best technology students in the country, and sometimes as few as 30 awards are issued.
The first step towards getting the award is having a technology teacher consider you good enough. Well, that and taking technology in the first place. Don't annoy teachers: They choose who is allowed to apply.
You will have to write about an A4 side on a current technology project. You can do this at home. It's not too hard. There's also a standard application form, asking things like your name.
Later on (Normally around the tenth of Febuary), you may be told you have to take an exam. You go in a room, and are given questions. You then begin filling up A3 pages with sketches, writing, etc.
There are two parts to the paper, one specific task and one where you can choose what you do. In my case, the specific task was to design a method for retrieving darts from a dartboard, once they had been thrown. The task where you had a choice had the options of:
- A poster which I can't remember. It was very hard though.
- A tent alarm, to stop people stealing things from a tent.
- A tent that can become a backpack, for hill-walking people etc.
- A device to keep by frozen lakes for rescuing animals that have fallen through thin ice without the owner falling in too.
I went with the tent alarm.
The exam will then be sent away for marking, and if you're lucky, you will be invited for an interview. Of the six people in my school who took the exam, two of us were invited for interview. This is the first time more than one person has been invited.
Approximately half of the people interviewed are offered the scholarship, I am told. This means if you are invited, you stand a suprisingly fair chance of getting the award.
At the interview, you are told to dress neatly in the invitation letter. If you are a guy, I will surpass that: Beg, steal or borrow a suit, and a non-school shirt and tie. Wear this. When I went to my interview, the vast majority of people there were wearing suits and ties.
The interview is fairly informal. Mine was with two people. They were friendly, nothing worth getting stressed about. If you have practical work, it's nice to have that with you to show around; it gives you something to talk about.
After the interview, you have to wait several weeks for the result. I am at that very stage now. I will update this writeup when I have some sort of result.
Well, I got it. As did two other people in my school... even though one of them wasn't interviewed.
Well, I say 'I got it' but what I mean is 'I didn't get it, then they reconsidered and decided to give it to me'.
To collect the prize, you go up to London and go to a presentation. There are two on different days (because there are quite a few scholars). One is held in the Institute of Electronic Engineers' building, and the other in the Royal Aeronautical Society's building - both are quite fancy buildings in central London. You'd better wear your suit here as well.
There's a fair bit of waiting, but it's interesting to meet other people, make small talk, and find out what others have done. You probably won't need a book or anything.
My AS-level project was used as an exemplar project for the examining board and stuff like that; people seem to really like it. I was asked to go the award ceremony a year after mine and display my work (this time at the IEE building). I got up to London by car (my travel expenses were being paid this time) and carried my project to the building, along with some display boards and suchlike. After setting it up, I spent a day standing around and talking to this year's scholars.
It was an interesting day out.