One year later, after an email landed in my inbox looking for volunteers to assist in a virtual outreach programme, I can whole heartedly admit I didn't expect the phenomenal success of the SmartSTEMs programme - 49 events, 4227 pupils since November 2020!
My first encounter with SmartSTEMs was from volunteering at a fun packed, STEM filled day at Glasgow Kelvin College. As a guide for a group of primary children, I took them between their activities and let them ask me whatever questions they had. From coding Fitbit's to smashing concrete blocks, I was jealous that I never experienced this during my school days. Maybe if I had, it would've saved me hours down the line of deciding what career path I should follow - Architecture, Medicine... wait what is this Engineering?
Then COVID happened just as I was finishing my Masters in MEng Product Design Engineering.
Anyways I graduated and landed myself my first ‘adult’ job at Koolmill Systems as a Project Engineer, which is around the same time SmartSTEMs contacted me asking for a 5 minute video and a child friendly CV about my Journey into STEM. I thought why not - who is even going to see it anyway!
Off I went and recorded myself chatting about how different internships and volunteering roles have been a valuable asset and inspired me to pursue a career in STEM. If you fancy a laugh you can watch here...
Nothing beats a bit of STEM outreach to start off the day!
From my work office, to a hotel room on holiday...the best thing about the virtual outreach programme is its only 20 minutes of my time which I can easily fit into my day and do from anywhere....as long as I have my phone/laptop and an internet connection!
"Thanks to SmartSTEMs Virtual programme I have managed to engage with more primary schools than ever before this past month including St Josephs, Craighead Primary School, Corpus Christi Primary School. I also helped out with SmartSTEMs first full school event of 2021 with the joyous 103 pupils at St Gerards.
Lets keep our children curious about the world and realise they can choose any career path they wish! #school#engineer#steminist "
I love meeting so many different children and answering their questions, whether its "What would you invent to make the world a better place" or "What's the most difficult thing about your job", they always leave me optimistic that the youth of today hold the solutions to all our problems!
From personal experience organising STEM workshops at schools hoping to inspire the next generation into STEM with the Female Engineering Society, I was aware of how challenging it can be to engage with a whole classroom of children. So when I noticed through my laptop screen a queue of children forming in their classroom with very well considered questions - I knew SmartSTEMs had cracked virtual outreach.
The child friendly CV and 5 minute video meant the children had time to actually think, rather than being put on the spot. There was never any awkward silences, only more hand raises - I always left the call with a huge smile on my face at the fact children were so interested in my life. I think as we get older we become complacent and so familiar with our day to day jobs, we forget that to children, our job is a whole new world that they know nothing about.
Meeting fellow SmartSTEMs volunteers over lunch was a great opportunity to reflect on the achievements of the past year as well as network with like minded individuals ... in the flesh!
Listening to Karen, Emma and Stuart's future plans for SmartSTEMs was exciting as they look to form collaborations with organisations/business/schools, seek new volunteers to inspire children as well as sponsors to support their essential work as they scale up.
If you are a business keen to do your bit for STEM outreach and help inspire our next generation, then I would highly recommend contacting SmartSTEMs to learn more about their collaborations.
Let's face we don't all have the time to create and facilitate engaging STEM workshops at schools every month, but that's what SmartSTEMs are experts at - all they need from you is YOU. By simply showing up and answering a few questions from children as a working STEM professional, you could empower the youth of today to solve the problems of tomorrow through STEM.