STEM Outreach Activities
Apr 3rd 2019
Since joining the Intelligent Automation Centre as a PhD student, Melanie Zimmer has been fortunate enough to engage in a number of outreach activities with school age students to encourage them to consider a career in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)
Her experience started with an online event called I'm an Engineer, Get me out of here in March 2016, which is an X Factor style online event where 5 engineers compete against each other and are judged by school students based on the interaction taking place in a forum. School students grill the participants with questions ranging from "What is your favourite food", "What is the best thing about your job?" to "If robots are more intelligent than humans, will they be able to create robots that are more intelligent than themselves?" and "Does being a female affect the way you're treated if you are a scientist?"!!
Melanie said: "It was a really great experience to be exposed to these kind of questions and to see how curious the students were".
Since her first event, Melanie has taken part in a variety of outreach activities, such as I'm a Scientist - Careers Zone and CyberMentor, as well as both company and school visits. Her latest school visit took place in March when she went to St Bartholomew's Church of England Primary School in Loughborough as part of their participation in the Primary Engineer Leaders Award and 3M Cargo Challenge.
STEM Outreach Visit to St Bartholomew's Church of England Primary School, Loughborough - March 2019
Melanie and some of her colleagues gave a short presentation about their work and research at Loughborough Unveristy and provided the students with feedback on their boat designs for the challenge, which had to be as light as possible whilst carrying up to 5kg without sinking. The students were then tasked with writing a short pitch for a fantastic idea which would then be judged for the Primary Engineer Leaders Award.his particular visit made Melanie realise just how much interest exists within school age children to participate in STEM outreach acitivites and at present she is involved in setting up a STEM outreach group between Heriot-Watt Univeristy in Edinburgh and Loughborough University where she is studying her PhD.
Although the outreach activities are not directly related to Melanie's research as such, they are very beneficial. She says: "Amongst other things, they help you to improve your communication and presentation skills, as you need to think about how to pitch your work and research to different audiences and age groups and you take away new ideas from each event - even from 5 and 6 year olds! By engaging with school age students like this, I hope to be able to give them an idea of how versatile science and engineering can be".
She added that "The person who influenced me most in choosing the educational path I have taken was my first ever female maths teacher; her passion about the subject was so inspirational to me! Trying to be a role model to the younger generation - both boys AND girls - challenging exsiting stereotypes and making an ongoing impact on school age students and their careers is my main motivation in participating in outreach activities".