Celebrating STEM during volunteers week

Between 1 – 7 June, people across the UK will be participating in Volunteers Week 2020, a chance to celebrate the contribution millions of volunteers make each year to voluntary activities. JBA is committed to supporting the development of staff through volunteering for causes they are passionate about, like my own: science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

What is STEM?

STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) is the unity of several academic disciplines to educate, inspire and support people in these fields from all walks of life. Education has long been a central tenet of science, from the various treatises and teachings of Galileo Galilei across physics, engineering, astronomy and mathematics in the 16th century, to Katherine Johnson in the mid-20th century, a mathematician who played an integral role in NASA’s space programme and who frequently gave talks to students on mathematics and science.

However, it wasn’t until 2001 that the acronym “STEM” was introduced to society at large by the scientific administrators at the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). Today, STEM has flourished world-wide, with different countries adopting their own methods of promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Here in the UK, STEM Learning utilises educators, technologists, charities and the private sector to help engage and further young people’s aspirations in STEM subjects and careers. Offering a range of support and guidance to students, teachers and families, STEM Learning has led the way in bringing together a wide range of interactive educational programmes to many schools and colleges across the UK. Additionally, over 30,000 volunteers, known as STEM Ambassadors, from various disciplines across commercial and academic sectors help to bring a different perspective to the STEM universe, inspiring young people who may be considering a career in these sectors.

How do STEM Ambassadors help?

As STEM Ambassadors, we engage with local schools, colleges and universities to help young people understand how they can use STEM subjects in their future education or career choices. This can involve a whole range of activities – I’ve attended careers events where I’ve discussed my subject choices at school, right through to my career and my current role at JBA, with parents, teachers and students alike.

By far the most popular activities involve interactive demonstrations where we can make use of some the physical models created by JBA Trust, including a wave tank, Augmented Reality Sandbox, or Projected Augmented Relief Model (PARM). Hannah Kellett, Flood Mapping and GIS Specialist at JBA, used this equipment for one of her STEM activities at a local school (pictured below).

I recently volunteered at a careers evening for local Sixth Form students. I encouraged students to consider further study of STEM subjects and talked about the subjects I chose to study at A-Level and University. I borrowed the JBA Trust Projection Augmented Relief Model (PARM) as it’s a great interactive visualisation tool and really helped me engage with the students. I find being a STEM Ambassador rewarding, as I get to give something back to the wider community, but also get the chance to develop my own skills and increase my own sense of achievement.
Hannah Kellett, Flood Mapping and GIS Specialist

Why volunteer for STEM?

Overall, being a STEM Ambassador is a thoroughly rewarding experience. We get to talk about topics we’re passionate about, and hopefully help young people in the community broaden their understanding of what’s possible with STEM subjects.

I was keen to become a STEM Ambassador as I have always been fascinated by science and the natural world. I wanted to share the career pathways available in these sectors with young people who might have similar interests to me. I enjoy talking about the possibilities and opportunities in STEM and opening up this sector to those who might not ordinarily think about themselves in these types of positions, or even be aware of them in the first place. I hope to be a positive role model and I look forward to meeting more young scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians who I hope will go on to change the world in a positive way.
Stewart Hall, Flood Mapping and GIS Specialist

Not only that, it’s also a great way to develop skills you might need in your own career. For example, we need to be able to explain technical topics to others who may never have heard of subjects like hydrology, hydraulic modelling or stochastic event sets before. Through attending events like Q and As, we build up our verbal communication skills, presentation skills and more. Plus, it’s also great fun!

If you’d like to learn more about how our STEM Ambassadors can help you in your own STEM activities, whether it’s careers evenings at schools or universities or demonstrations of our various tools, please get in touch.

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