Reaching out to make a difference

Posted on 01/05/2018 by IED

Countless organisations are engaged in promoting engineering design and, more widely, STEM, says Tania Humphries-Smith. But there is so much more we can all do

So, as you will no doubt have noticed, Pete Lomas has agreed to be our new President* – most famous as co-founder of Raspberry Pi, the organisation that has been hugely successful in outreach and education to help more people access computing and digital making. This is great news for the IED, but also for engineering design in general. Of course, Raspberry Pi is not the only organisation engaged in promoting engineering design and, more widely, STEM. As part of my outreach work with schools local to the university I work at, it has recently become apparent to me just how many organisations and initiatives there are. Here, for example, are some used (successfully, I might add) by just one academy (The Bourne Academy) alone: Greenpower; trip to local aerospace company; Royal Airforce Education Road Show (with BAE Systems); Rotary Technology Tournament; talk by Professor Winston; Arkwright Scholarships; Skirting Science by Soroptimist International; and after school clubs, such as code (often supported by Raspberry Pi) and technology. Wow… the effort!

This is without: TeenTech (our very own outgoing President Maggie Philbin’s initiative); Tomorrow’s Engineers and Big Bang Fair, both organised by EngineeringUK; Made Here Now; a variety of options offered by Women’s Engineering Society; Engineering Talent Programme run by Royal Academy of Engineering; Routes into STEM run by EDT – and this is without outreach programmes that are often run by individual universities (such as the one I wrote about in my Nov-Dec 2017 column).

What unites them? They all have very similar agendas, such as this from Greenpower, “whose objective is to inspire more young people to become engineers by presenting the engineering industry as an interesting and relevant career choice”. The controversial Uff Report of November 2016** pointed out the problems. “Many schools and teachers report that they are overloaded with STEM initiatives, with too much going on in an unfocused way.” (p31 para 66)

And: “it is apparent that the current range of activities aimed at promoting STEM subjects with 14-16 year-olds is not succeeding in achieving meaningful improvement on the disappointing statistics for numbers taking up scienceand maths at A level and following this up in further education…and that there may be more successful ways of bringing out and developing that enthusiasm.” (p31 para 64)

Do you know what has happened, in light of Uff? Thought not…and therein lies the problem – it is all our problem and we can’t leave it to ‘them’.

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