Ifield Community College (ICC) pupils were the first to take on an electronics challenge which will be rolled out across Sussex.
Thales, in Manor Royal, has set up a competition for pupils to learn how to use engineering knowledge to design and create metal detectors.
The competition is being rolled out as part of this year’s third annual STEMfest - a festival which runs throughout May and June and encourages young people to take part in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths.
Around 12 ICC students took part in the challenge during the launch of the competition at the Crawley Thales site on March 14, during National Science and Engineering Week.
Groups of Year Nine pupils were given a tool kit and instructions.
With the help of Thales’ engineers, known as ‘STEM Ambassadors’, the pupils worked to create a metal detector.
Sara Moufeed, 14, said through the challenge she had discovered engineering was a diverse and practical subject.
She said: “We’re not just writing onto paper. We’re applying it to something interesting.
“Now I can see how engineering applies to everything else I wouldn’t think it applies to, like the military and things.”
Manan Vaidya, 14, said he wanted to be a pilot and discovered engineering was an important subject to study as it taught him about how planes worked.
He said: “Now I know I need to do geography, DT, and you need science, maths and physics as well.”
Pupils in participating schools will take part in a six-week project of after-school sessions with the STEM ambassadors, in which they will design and create their tool.
They will then take part in the Thales Treasure Hunt where they will try to detect hidden as many metal washers as possible.
Winners will be revealed at the finale of the STEMfest - the Big Bang fair on July 1.
Crawley MP Henry Smith attended the launch event and thanked Thales for its help in inspiring young people to take an interest in subjects which children sometimes consider boring.
For the past two years this finale has taken place at The Hawth but due to the popularity of the event, this year’s event will take place at the Ardingly Showground.
Joseph Lam, 27, a systems engineer at Thales, said during STEMfest he would be attending schools around Sussex and explaining to pupils and teachers how to use programming in a fun way.
He said with the use of simple programming software he could teach children how to create a remote control car and build a computer game.