Last Tuesday was a good day. I attended my first Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Network (STEMNET) event as a STEM ambassador, and also attended my first Tech Track 100 awards dinner.
In a sea of men at the dinner, Ideal ranking 50 was a brilliant validation that, with hard work and commitment, ambitious business people can be successful regardless of gender. Being a STEM ambassador is a chance for me to show girls and boys that STEM careers can bring both success and recognition.
Enterprise Challenge Day at Chailey School
Enterprise Challenge Day at Chailey School is an annual competition run to give students an inspirational, exciting and educational opportunity to build their own business plan.
The students’ brief was to create an app to promote or improve personal health and wellbeing. Along with other judges I was asked to support a group of students helping them to develop ideas, conduct research, think about how the commercial viability of their product, how they would promote it and finally building a pitch.
Sitting on a panel of judges we asked tough questions to the finalists to test their business plans and eventually chose a winning team who pitched a mobile app to support young people to ‘beat the bully’.
The students worked really hard to create a viable proposition but I was struck by how little interest or experience they had in programming. Almost without exception they did not see themselves as people who could build the app themselves - instead researching what the cost would be for an ‘expert’ to build it for them.
Speaking to the head of computing I understand the curriculum has changed and all secondary school students are now coding from Year 7. But what of this generation of children who haven’t been exposed to coding in their school life?
Next month the Hour of Code will give anyone in the world the opportunity to learn the basics of computer science. I have signed up so that next time I’m in front of a group of students, I can tell them first-hand how with a little tuition they can use technology to solve problems with logic and creativity.
My role as a STEM ambassador
So, without this technical knowledge what can I offer young people as a STEM ambassador? At Ideal we work hard to understand our customers’ challenges before we design solutions. I applied the same principles working with these young people - work out what challenges the audience of their app might have, research if your assumptions are correct (even if that’s only asking yourself what do I need?) and only then begin to think about how an app might be able to help.
Chailey’s Enterprise Challenge Day is a brilliant example of how innovative educators are working with their communities to give their students the benefit of accessing real world business know how. I hope I helped make it real, and am looking forward to doing it again.