School’s out, STEM’s in
17 August 2017
Those of you who follow my regular STEM column in EPDT's magazine will know how important raising the profile of STEM education and careers is to me personally – and I’m sure, to many of you too. In most of the developed world, we are facing a looming STEM crisis, as the number of engineers and scientists industry and society needs increases – but the skills gap continues to widen, as the current cohort ages out, while take-up of STEM education and careers has continued to stall.
This piece originally appeared in the September 2017 issue of Electronic Product Design & Test; to view the digital edition, click here – and to register to receive your own printed copy, click here.
Society faces so many grand challenges, from addressing climate change and harnessing renewable energy sources to meet growing demand in a sustainable way, to providing access to clean drinking water and sufficient food for all its population, or developing better medical devices and improving healthcare – not to mention the constant demands of industry and consumers for more and better devices, systems and technologies. All of these challenges, at their core, will be solved by engineers and scientists – so we desperately need more of them. The technology they create and develop helps improve everyday life for all of us. And with the rise of the IoT and the proliferation of digital, smart devices and functionality, electronics engineers are more in demand – and more vital than ever before.
So, when I saw that the latest initiative of The IET’s excellent Engineer a Better World campaign (www.engineer-a-better-world.org) was a nationwide series of Engineering Open House Day events, I was thrilled. Engineer a Better World aims to highlight to parents and children the huge diversity of exciting, creative and stimulating careers available in modern engineering, and the Open House Day aimed to help them understand what it’s like to work as an engineer, via special, behind-the-scenes access to a wide variety of organisations. So, since school’s out (for summer), I decided I would take my young son, whose interest in STEM education and careers I’m always happy to be able to encourage, along with me to the event at Savoy Place, the London home of The IET, to see a range of engineering technology in action.
We talked to Greenpower, who challenge students to design, build and race an electric car, and my son got to change a wheel on their demo car against the clock. We saw demos of FIRST LEGO League robots, as well as talking to them about how best to encourage my son’s school to start a team. We tried out augmented and virtual reality tech by Curiscope (glasses, a t-shirt and an app) to bring anatomy to life. We built LED torches from component parts. We explored a range of student projects powered by the BBC micro:bit single board embedded microcontroller – and then got a chance to get some coaching from CoderDojo, before coding and building a few of our own projects. We got to meet and talk to April and GlitterBomb, from Robot Wars. And we had a talk from Professor Jeremy Watson, the current IET President, as well as a tour of Savoy Place. Not to mention, we left with a stack of inspirational information about engineering careers. My son’s interest in engineering was suitably refreshed and energised!
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