STEM

Sue talks to Phil Edwards of STEM-Projects about his STEM workshops for KS 1, 2, 3 and 4 students.

What is STEM, how and when did it start?

STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths.​

It’s been running for a long time. Companies involved in those sort of careers have long supported schools; either as part of the curriculum, or in after-school design and technology clubs. A lot of companies allow their employees free time-off to support local schools as it is good career development for the engineers and really valuable to the schools. Companies recognise that if we don’t encourage more children to consider a career in science or engineering they will struggle to get employees in future, so it’s in their self-interest.

When did you first get involved?

Phil Edwards, STEM Ambassor

Phil Edwards, STEM Ambassor

I first got involved in the mid-1990’s with an organisation called Young Engineers (who are still going) but as my career developed I didn’t have the time and stopped my involvement. In 2013 I realised that our world-record challenging electric motorcycle (www.fast-charge.org) was a fantastic resource to take into schools and show them how exciting engineering is. I signed up with STEM Sussex, who are based at University of Brighton, to be trained as a STEM ambassador. It’s very simple to get involved and there are a huge number of different opportunities regardless of what you do in your job, and how much time you can afford, and what you want to do. Not everyone is comfortable talking to a group of school children, but there are lots of event marshals needed, and other supporting roles where you can help.

Is it a government incentive and is there an international equivalent?

A lot of the larger STEM organisations are supported by Government, but it’s mainly a voluntary/charitable thing that’s developed because people in industry see a need for it. Also, as technology develops ever-faster many school teachers simply can’t spend enough time keeping up with what industry does and wants, so the schools have a desperate need for more help, and more hands-on involvement, in the classroom.
There is a lot of government interest as they recognise we are very short of skilled scientists and engineers and our companies are going to struggle to recruit good people if we don’t encourage children to study STEM at school, college and university, or do an apprenticeship.

How do schools usually apply to get involved in STEM?

I think most science, design, and technology teachers are aware of STEM, although it can be overwhelming to keep up with everything that’s available. There are all sorts of activities, videos, games, and challenges on offer though charities such as the Nuffield Foundation, for example, or through large multi-national companies such as Siemens that devote entire departments to producing materials and developing challenges. Some are national events, and some are just developed locally.

What are your plans to grow your STEM projects?

chassis design Mar2016

Copywrite Weald Technology Limited 2016

I’m using our electric drag-bike as the basis of a whole series of projects. These are being developed with help from STEM Sussex and Medway Education Business Partnership, and we’ll be piloting them in schools across Sussex and Kent this summer. We’ll learn from that and improve them during the summer, in readiness for launching them to a wider group of schools for the 2016-17 academic year.

If you are interested in talking to Phil please contact him on 01825 761890

If you have a career related item of interest and would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know.