Wednesday, 26 October 2011

STEM and the North Wales Engineering Challenge

I wanted to mention the North Wales Engineering Challenge which I attended at Bangor University a couple of weeks ago as a STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) Ambassador.  This is part of the other side of my life where I use my knowledge of Physics and Mathematics to teach and, hopefully, occasionally, inspire.

It was a good day out for me and all of the young people taking part.  I met some old acquaintances and friends and made some very useful new contacts.  The young people taking part seemed to have a good time for the most part but I think the most valuable thing they took away was new knowledge of working with others.  The challenge puts them together with people they don't know and for some teams this worked really well but for others it showed how you cannot let one weak link spoil it for the rest of you. 

I remember one team in particular where three people were really bright if not overly enthusiastic bar one, but of the other two one didn't care and wanted it done for him and the other just had no motivation whatsoever.  I suggested they allocate jobs but of course this didn't work as some jobs were simply not done!!  Sound familiar?  We all feel this sometimes I think.  I felt for the more applied students, however, they were too willing to blame it on the weak links and not willing to pick it up and run with it themselves and just do their best under the circumstances.  They walked away a little dispondant but I hope it is a slow burn lesson for all of them.

The teams that won did a fantastic job with some very impressive gearing and some elegant design solutions.  I do wonder if the whole competition thing is not a little self defeating though.  They all need to feel like winners and potential engineers when they leave that hall I think,  is there a way that could be achieved?  I am still pondering that one.

Ah!!!  My bright little son just woke up and said; 'they don't need to feel like a winner they just need to feel like they are potentially a good engineer'. Bright boy! Now that must be easy to achieve and I think that is down to us ambassadors, providing encouraging words and praise where due.  A bit difficult when there are few of you and hundreds of young potential engineers so what we need is MORE STEM AMBASSADORS PLEASE :)  If you are interested just google STEM and you'll find the relevant contact for your area, it really is well worth while :)

Ta for reading.