STEM Matters: Summer of STEM…

03 September 2018

Mark Gradwell, Consultant Editor of EPDT

If you’re a parent, then the summer holidays likely bring additional worries around juggling child care and keeping your young people productively active and engaged over the extended summer break. I was particularly impressed this summer of 2018 (the Year of Engineering!) at the range of STEM-themed options for doing so…

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With a good number of STEM activities and initiatives targeted at children and families available, if you have (or know) little ones that show an interest in – or that you want to introduce to science, technology, engineering and mathematics – then read on!

First up, the IET (Institution of Engineering & Technology) repeated its IET Engineering Open House Day, now in its fourth year, on Friday 3rd August. The IET teamed up again with some well-known organisations and venues across the UK to welcome young people and their parents to a range of STEM-related venues and activities, providing an educational and fun day-out for young people with inquisitive minds. Last year’s event attracted more than 3,000 young people and their families, who were keen to find out how creative and exciting a career in engineering could be.

I wasn’t able to attend this year, but last year I went to the Open House at Savoy Place, home of the IET, with my son – and it was a fantastic celebration of and advertisement for engineering. Visitors could choose from a range of behind-the-scenes tours, inspiring talks, technology demonstrations and hands-on interactive exercises at venues nationwide, including: the BBC (in London and Birmingham); Tower Bridge, in London; Sellafield, in Cumbria; Brunel Museum, in London; the Museum of Science & Industry, in Manchester; Royal Mail’s automated mail centre, in Swindon; the National Theatre, in London; the SS Great Britain, in Bristol; The O2, in London; the UK Astronomy Technology Centre, in Edinburgh; the IET’s London home, Savoy Place; and many more.

A quick search online will throw up a short YouTube video from the IET showing some of the activities that took place – if you missed it like me this year, put it in your calendars for next year!

One of the best campaigns and resources comes from the team at the Year of Engineering (YoE), with their Holiday Makers initiative, which encourages children across the country to get making, inventing and having fun over the summer holidays. A brand new online hub at www.yearofengineering.gov.uk is packed with fun activities and challenges that will help to entertain and inspire your children, keeping their minds sharp all summer long.

Weekly one-of-a-kind challenges include building a robot arm, cracking codes and making a glider – and can win prizes from partners like the Science Museum and the RAF. Hands-on activities are also available through the portal, including making bouncy balls from balloons, learning about static electricity or constructing a free-standing bridge out of spaghetti. And an extensive nationwide directory of events includes STEM discovery days, STEM summer schools and a Gadget Factory event, run by Siemens. At the end of each challenge, activity or event, participants can claim a digital badge, tracking and sharing their progress via a digital holiday journal (or you can download a printable version).

I’ve also seen a happy rise in STEM-themed holiday clubs, as another alternative to the more common sports or play-themed options. Ofsted-registered (meaning they can take childcare vouchers), these educational holiday clubs are designed to be fun, energetic, but structured days of science and technology experiments. Each day will encourage your children’s natural curiosity and provide a safe space for experimentation and learning, with themes from Bubbles Mayhem, to Rainbow Chemistry, Hovercraft Racing and Super Slime.

Finally, looking forward (and back again to the Year of Engineering), LEGO has teamed up with the YoE campaign and the IET to inspire and develop Engineers of the Future, by allowing children to get hands-on with LEGO Education solutions and develop STEM skills through programming challenges. This collaboration will build on the success of the FIRST LEGO League, with a schools roadshow in the autumn, featuring LEGO Education WeDo and MINDSTORMS robotic technology. Find out more about the Engineers of the Future Challenge and how schools can get involved at firstlegoleague.theiet.org/yoe-competition.cfm.


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