STEM Ambassador on tour...
I signed up as a STEM Ambassador last year and have since helped at a few educational events, including The Big Bang Fair and Bett 2018, but I was still slightly apprehensive of actually going into schools because I’m not an engineer, I’m more of a tech geek. However, a local school was in need of a number of STEM Ambassadors to help run sessions at its recent Science Day, so I bit the bullet and signed myself up.
The DesignSpark area of Titan II – RS Components’ mobile innovation experience at @ BETT 2018
It started off in a slightly daunting way; I thought I was being shown to a classroom, but when I was ushered through the door, suddenly there I was at the front of morning assembly with the entire school looking up at me! I needn’t have worried however, the school’s science teacher introduced us explaining to the children why we were there and what we would be doing. I took the opportunity of swotting up on how to speak to the youngsters, as the teachers were very animated and I quickly realised that my usual style of business presentation was not going to be appropriate!
As it was my first school STEM event, Jack Payne at STEMnet was extremely helpful and provided a presentation pack with a general introduction to STEM, along with instructions for a k’nex tower building activity. In addition, STEM Ambassadors are asked to explain a bit about their own job and the company they work for, so I put together a quick activity, showing the children a Raspberry Pi and asking them to guess what it is and what it does. I ran the session with four separate classes over the course of the day and no-one recognised the Raspberry Pi; however, I then went through a number of cool Pi projects that really got the kids excited, including:
mintyPi 2.0 – retro Donkey Kong in a mini mint tin
Automated entrance music – just like WWE
R Pi Minecraft Server
Mini Lego Mac Classic – the kids were too young, to be honest, but as my first computer, this grabbed my attention. This mini model made from Lego, powered with a Pi Zero and utilising an e-paper display by Jannis Hermanns was just too cool to leave out!
Tower building with k’nex
Now I’d got the kids all hyped up, it was time to get the k’nex sets out and make a lot of mess and noise! We organised the children into teams and set them a challenge:
“Build a tower at least 50 cm tall that supports a tennis ball at the top and which will withstand an earthquake! The winning tower is the one which is judged to be the most stable.”
And wow were they good?! Over the course of the day, the groups of children built 16 towers and I simulated 16 earthquakes – and the tennis ball only fell from one tower, which I think is pretty epic building!
Here are my absolute favourites from both Year 4 and Year 6:
Year 4 Tower
Year 6 Tower
So, all in all, my first school event as a STEM Ambassador went swimmingly. The ‘boys versus girls’ idea made the competition more intense in one of the sessions! The best bit? I was really touched to have several girls come and tell me I’d inspired them to become engineers – they hadn’t realised how exciting and fun it could be. I left feeling thoroughly inspired by the kids and their super enthusiasm for life. I will certainly be signing up to help with more STEM events after the summer holidays.
Thank you to all the staff and students at Rothwell Junior School – it was an absolute pleasure to spend the day with you.