Celebrating National STEM Day
Today is STEM Day and here at Curtins we pride ourselves on being STEM ambassadors, aiming to inspire the next generation of scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians. How do we do it? Let me show you!
Throughout the year, we volunteer at Careers Fairs, Science Weeks, Careers Days and many more activities, engaging with students of all ages to instil in them a passion for future STEM professions.
STEM education is an essential tool to give students the knowledge and skills they need to flourish in careers in science, while encouraging them to develop critical thinking, problem solving and creativity through fun activities. We also value the importance running these activities with our group of positive and diverse role models – demonstrating that anyone can be an engineer and helping to remove perceived barriers to the industry.
All of these key elements came together in October in a unique celebration of Leeds 2023: Year of Culture. Curtins partnered with Elly Fraser-Watts, a student from Leeds Arts University, to create an exclusive photography exhibition that was displayed in our Leeds office. The event aimed to celebrate the city’s identity, while creating an opportunity for a positive social impact in the neighbourhood community. In doing so, we took the opportunity to include local schools in STEM education activities, inviting students from Mount St Marys Catholic High School, a local school near our Leeds office, to enjoy an interactive workshop to explore STEM careers through engineering. The Year 8 and 9 students were offered a workshop with five activities. Here’s what the students got involved in:
Our civil engineering activity aimed to teach the students the impact of climate change on flooding and how civil engineers design flood management systems sustainably with the use of natural resources. The students built a flood management system themselves using marbles to simulate the rain and other materials, such as plasticine and tin foil, to create obstacles to stop the water flowing through a wooden ramp.
Our structural engineering activity showed the students the effect of wind in building. They were asked to build their own structures with paper straws and blue tac. Using small fans as wind simulators, we explained how buildings must be designed to withstand this natural phenomenon.
Our colleagues from the geotechnical department taught them the geology under the city of Leeds, while showing them different samples of soils and how a structure will sink on the soil depending on their strength and stiffness.
Our last activity was delivered by our transport planning team. They prepared two activities aiming to show types of infrastructures and their impact in the environment. They also explained the influence of their job in designing transport routes, as well as solutions to resolve transport issues and contribute to reducing the impact of climate change.
I was delighted that not only was the event a great opportunity to give back to our community, but a way to promote STEM within the younger generations – the future workforce of our society.
Arts and Photography
Finally, the event also joined the dots between arts and engineering through photography and artist, Elly coached the students in portrait photography – allowing them to get hands on with a high spec camera to try out their new skills.
The response and engagement we had from the students during each activity were undoubtedly a success. In a survey, we learnt that the students took away an understanding of what a career in STEM could look like and what opportunities can Curtins offered them in the years ahead.