I have recently become engaged with STEM related activities within the local Shropshire area, with a view to promoting careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths to school age children. As part of this work I was invited to be a Capgemini Ambassador for the Holy Trinity Academy during the Teen Tech event. This is a nationally organised event, with the Shropshire offering hosted by the Enginuity centre in Ironbridge.
The day kicked off with the students being asked numerous questions to gage their level of understanding and perception of careers in STEM. The majority of answers were negative, either the students were not familiar with STEM or felt they didn't know enough. They were then asked to draw their vision of someone that works within the STEM industry. Out of the 280 children, only 26 drew a woman. For those on my table their reasons behind the pictures were the same - this is my mother, father, auntie. It was evident that inspiration for children begins directly at home, which was something I'd personally underestimated before this moment.
Creating Chocolate Structures...
Our first working demonstration was at the Febweld station, where a challenge was set to create a weight bearing structure using only thin chocolate bars and a bottle of hot water. The group split into smaller teams to tackle the problem, melting chocolate all over the bottles and their fingers, with a view to creating a glue-like material to bond the chocolate bars together. During the attempts it soon became apparent that if you had melted the chocolate in an uneven fashion the bonds weren't strong enough to hold. The underlying message of the importance of accuracy and patience was most definitely delivered and I can gladly report that the children did manage to complete the task without eating all of their supplies, which was a challenge in itself!
Our second stand was JVC. The demonstrator gave a presentation about how much technology had developed over the years and sought about testing the children's historical knowledge...using a Video recorder. Now I personally wouldn't class this as old as I have owned one, but maybe that is me showing my age! The children were fascinated by what technology looked like under the covers, how everything fitted together and how the Formula 1 McLaren team uses JVC technology today.
Our final 15 minute activity was with VEX Robotics, to create a remote control car from an industrial type Lego-esque kit. 1 member of the team steamed ahead, he was obviously a pro at this kind of task! I paired up with one student and we tackled the multiple pages of instructions together and created a working remote controlled car. Her beaming smiles at the end was evidence of her personal feeling of achievement through conquering something new.
The importance of Teamworking...
We then moved on to the 30 minute activities, starting with the engineering company Sodexo. There were two activities for the students to tackle, requiring the groups to not only gain an understanding of the physical components involved but also to promote the importance of team work. The children donned their protective gear and started to place pipes and corresponding brackets onto a wall to enable the golf balls to be transferred between multiple points. It was wonderful to watch as the students organised themselves to lift the different lengths of pipes, assisted others in their team if they were struggling with the concepts and took it in turns to test the links between them.
I managed to capture their excitement in our triumphant team selfie!
Our final 30 minute task was with Faccenda, a chicken meat packing company. This exercise provided the students with a real life example of how machines can deliver quality products in exceptionally fast time frames. The students were tasked with using robots to select the correct size chicken pieces, packing them in the correct dishes and labelling as required. Once again the importance of clear communication, team work and quality control were clear to see. The students stuck to their allocated roles, embraced the hairnets and white coats and completed the activities… this should have been a selfie opportunity however I was also dressed in a bright pink hairnet and gloves, a sight I do not wish to publicise!!
The final challenge of the day was...
Design an app. It was during this exercise that I saw the children really come to life. They quickly grasped the concepts and were brimming with ideas, I could barely write them fast enough! I was astounded at the detail they were suggesting, with ideas around:
- Incentives to play
- How to develop the game further
- Mini challenges to set
- Marketing campaign, icon for the app and even a slogan!
One quality which especially impressed me was the eagerness to present their findings. Three students volunteered to present their ideas on stage in front of 100+ teachers, students and industry professionals. They demonstrated the growth in confidence and courage built up over the day as a great presentation was delivered.
The end of the day was now upon us. The students said their goodbyes, shook my hand and thanked me for my time, including one student who asked very sweetly asked if I wanted to work at her school and teach them about computers! Overall it was a fantastic day. Well organised, well attended and no doubt greatly appreciated by all. It was inspiring to see each of the students taking ownership and becoming motivated in the different tasks. There was no one dominate team member and further demonstrated that a career in STEM is so diverse, it fits for everyone - all interests, all abilities and all genders. It was a delight to represent Capgemini at this event and to inspire future generations to pursue a career within STEM.
Senior Solution Architect / STEM Ambassador