Technology for Fun
Like many countries, the UK is suffering from a skills gap - a tech-savvy workforce is needed to cope with industrialisation and there is a huge shortage of young people going into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) careers. When students are asked to make subject choices leading to their future careers, many are unclear as to what is involved, and may also have picked up the message that STEM is ‘boring’, ‘nerdy’ or ‘not for girls’. To increase uptake we need to excite kids about it before they pick up such messages.
The method I use to great effect is to get pupils designing and making really fun working models. The point of combining the STEM subjects is that the sum of the parts can be so much more than treating them individually. The students can experience the engineering design process for themselves, set design criteria, generate their own concepts, develop their practical skills making the models and then close the loop by testing them, finding out how well they work and improving them. Students can learn a great deal during this process without even feeling that they are 'working'.
My projects are designed specifically to appeal to both girls and boys and to provide a memorable experience which the students will then associate with STEM in the future. It is important to start this process early, preferably at primary age, before the students begin to pick up negative messages about STEM (particularly the 'not for girls' message which many seem to acquire around age 11).
The teacher resources I have prepared are intended to help teachers to carry out STEM activities in class, whether or not they are specialists in the subject. Detailed instructions, PowerPoints, worksheets and sample answers are given to lead both teachers and students though the process. I have developed a number of class kits to help make ordering materials simpler and quicker.
STEM ambassadors are keen to inspire the next generation, but just going into school to talk to the students doesn't necessarily have the desired effect. If they are equipped to carry out a real tried and tested project they can spend a day passing on their knowledge and enthusiasm to the students, whilst supporting their STEM education by relating the activity to curriculum learning objectives. The teachers appreciate not having to prepare the lesson or source all the parts needed! A number of useful contacts are included on the website to try and help schools and STEM ambassadors to get in touch and help inspire the next generation together.