Crazy hair? - Bow tie? - Surrounded by test tubes? - Male?
The 'Draw a Scientist Evaluation' is a very useful task in showing the misconceptions people have about the STEM world. Students say that science interests them but a very small percentage of these students actually pursue these subjects on to higher education and we are still facing a skills shortage in the technology sector in the UK. Science is usually seen as something that somebody else does compared to something you can do, and the way to move forward as a country is to bridge that confidence gap.
This was the focus for the second annual ARM Forum, which was held at the Science Museum in London-possibly the most relevant place to hold such an event! Points about STEM education were emphasised and, with an esteemed panel of Professors, CEOs and Technology Officers, it was a very good insight into what is currently being done to promote children to step outside their curriculum and to have extra-curricular problem solving feature more heavily in the existing curriculum.
The evening opened with Lauren, my friend and TeenTech partner, and I giving a speech to the 347 people in the audience about the effect TeenTech has had on our lives and how we want competitions like it to continue in the future. Surprisingly, I wasn’t actually as nervous as you would expect, probably because it was our chance to share our experience with some very high-up people (including people from Cambridge University, big brands and students our own age as well) and it was nice for the student voice to be heard as that was what the whole Forum was there to discuss.
I think this is a great idea, especially for younger kids, because there would be some friendly competition between, say, the netball and football teams to see who’d run the most or how fast the ball could travel, whilst children became interested in seeing and analysing the data because they could see how computer science is applied to real life.
It is debatable as to what a child's main influence is, especially in this day and age. Is it their parents? Family life affects children; their attitude to life, their morals and understandings, and it also shapes their future careers. Research links the likelihood of a 14 year old aspiring to a science-related career to the amount of "science capital" a family has. The ASPIRES group (from King's College London) describe "science capital" as referring to science-related qualifications, understanding, knowledge (about science and 'how it works'), interest and social contacts (e.g. knowing someone who works in a science-related job). The findings show that pupils with low science capital who do not express STEM related aspirations at age 10 are unlikely to develop STEM aspirations by the age of 14.
Families who have parents currently in STEM related jobs, therefore, will have an impact on how their children view science and will increase their chances of continuing with STEM subjects in higher education.
An important influence on children is school. It is hugely important to me that I find out about what careers are out there because honestly, I think that science lessons just don’t show children the career opportunities beyond being a teacher or being isolated in a lab. One of the things I reiterate again and again about my experience of TeenTech is the real-life insight into businesses and the thousands of jobs I have been introduced to that springboard off STEM subjects. I know I am in an easy position to say that schools don’t do enough to show kids about what careers are out there, but I do believe that getting in members from industry to give talks to children will help them understand that science isn’t just about fitting the Albert-Einstein stereotype, it’s about being a normal human, in normal clothes, with a mad passion for solving problems. A good suggestion from the audience was from an ex-teacher who said that teachers should lobby for change in the curriculum itself to get more topics like computer science and programming in there. What do you think?