STEM 2: Return of the STEM
What a hectic day Friday was! With Year 5 children from Skelton Primary and Year 10s from Redcar Academy we ran the second of our four STEM days this Academic year, The intention, as ever, is to give children the opportunity to work with ‘real life’ people in hands-on workshops. The children get to see possible career roles for them that they maybe never thought existed or which they thought were ‘not for the likes of us’. Which is nonsense.
We had three workshops:
Mike showed the innovative GoCycle which was designed and built by a former F1 designer. Mike had been involved in creating some of the electrical systems on the bike and he showed such faith in the quality of the bike that he rode it the eight miles to the centre! Alongside that, he showed how flexibly an Arduino can be used for a range of programming functions. I was about to take a picture of what the group was up to when Mike asked me to put down my iPad and allow him to measure my height using atmospheric pressure……..obviously! It was fab to see some of the Year 5 girls take the opportunity at breaktime to ask Mike further questions about some of the things that they had seen.
Connor works for Cleveland Bridge as an apprentice and inevitably his workshop examined effective ways of making bridges (out of paper). The students really identified with Connor as he wasn’t much older than them. He also made the point that after gaining 17 GCSEs (through hard work) he thought very carefully about his next step, took a BTEC in engineering and then was accepted on an apprenticeship with Cleveland Bridge. He will continue on to a degree and a masters as part of his ongoing training, backed by his company. It was a powerful message particularly for the Year 10s. In many ways it embodies one of the key reasons why the days exist; to ensure that students have an awareness of what is available to them so they can make informed decisions. To help with this Alison and Maria from Routes to Employment also attended the day and interviewed the children while they were working to gain insights into how the service can be even more effective. It is this sort of joined up working that we hope will have an impact on school leavers over the next few years. We have to start somewhere!
The third session was led by Hafsah who is an engineering apprentice with Jacobs. The students were genuinely shocked that the glamorous young lady they were working with an engineer (she clearly wasn’t wearing a hard hat!). More than that, she spoke confidently and enthusiastically about some issues in engineering which then set the context for building effective tower structures out of marshmallows and spaghetti. She broke all stereotypes! I visited her workshop in the first part of the day and as she began to speak there was an uneasy silence in the room as the Year 10s and the Year 5s occupied opposite sides of the room and clearly didn’t want to answer questions either through embarrassment or nerves. I returned half an hour later after checking round the other workshops to find that they were all in mixed age groups and were absorbed in the task set them. This wasn’t just a fun activity, tenuously related to engineering, there were plans on the desks and listening in to conversations revealed that they were using some of the vocabulary that Hafsah had introduced.
Teachers from both schools commented on how the mix of ages had actually been a real asset to the day, it is something that we are going to actively promote on future dates (March 9th is now fully booked with 80 students but there are spaces still available on 12th June).
These days are proving a real success and the conversations that have continued on from them between schools and STEMnet have been particularly rewarding with the possibility of STEM ambassadors regularly going into schools being more common.
We are thoroughly looking forward to the next event!