Why did you enter the Wales STEM Awards?
Wales STEM Awards presented an opportunity to celebrate our team and their dedication to providing high quality STEM outreach experiences for young people in Wales. They worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to diversify the content we delivered and adapting how they worked under difficult circumstances, entering the Wales STEM awards gave us the opportunity to recognise their hard work and celebrate it with the wider STEM community.
What did winning mean for you or your business?
Winning was an immense honour. We are celebrating S4’s tenth year so to have our contribution to STEM in Wales recognised on a national level was a highlight. Winning was such a positive thing for our team, the pandemic was an exhausting and stressful time for everyone working in higher education, it was so nice to have the team’s efforts rewarded. For our schools and participants as well, they feel a sense of pride in their science project being recognised in this way!
What did you think of the awards ceremony?
The awards ceremony was outstanding it was great to be surrounded by so many colleagues to highlight and celebrate the achievements of so many great businesses contributing to Wales’ thriving STEM sector. We really appreciated the chance to network with STEM colleagues from across Wales and are looking forward to following up on some of the great links we made on what was an incredibly enjoyable evening. The awards show that Wales is at the forefront of STEM innovation and deserves recognition among larger countries.
What’s been a challenge for you or your business during the last year and how did you overcome it?
Re-engagement with schools post pandemic has been a challenge, there is so much lost learning to cover that programmes like ours can be seen as a supplemental luxury that there’s no longer time for. We have overcome this by working closely with schools to understand their needs and by ensuring our workshops have links with the curriculum and fit in with what schools can accommodate time and logistics wise right now. There are enormous pressures across education and outreach right now and we are having to find additional agility to keep delivering.
What’s been a highlight for you or your business over the last year and why?
We were able to invite schools back to campus for the first time since the start of the pandemic welcoming over 1000 pupils across three days to see our Fantastic Fire Show as a part of Swansea Science Festival. It was an amazing opportunity to engage and enthuse so many young people and great to see our team thrive doing what they love. It was a very emotional experience actually to have an auditorium filled with live science experiments and shouting and laughing students. It was such a joy to read feedback again (“I loved where the fire changed colour. I also loved the foam one the messy one.”)
What are your goals for 2023?
In 2023 we want to continue to grow and diversify, the roll out of the new curriculum with its focus on an interdisciplinary approach presents an amazing opportunity allowing us the flexibility to expand our program and provide experiential learning opportunities with real world context.
What, in your opinion, can be done to inspire more young people to pursue careers in STEM?
To inspire young people to pursue STEM careers they need to have experiential learning experiences so that they have the opportunity to “do science” rather than simply being taught science. It is also important for them to know about the wealth of opportunities available to them in STEM through meeting role models they can relate to.
What, or who, is exciting you in the STEM sector in Wales?
We are excited about the commitment Wales has made to meeting the environmental targets that we need to look after Wales for future generations and some of the business and industrial innovations that will be needed to achieve those things are exciting. We are able to share innovations around things like lower emissions steel production, ways that farmers are bringing greater levels of conservation into food production and land stewardship etc with students on our programmes and listen to their ideas on what a sustainable Wales looks like. Even though we have a long way to go to safeguard Wales for future generations, to secure a just transition to a lower carbon economy and to restore and repair nature there are really exciting innovations to share with our schools and participants, and a time when we are supporting schools to navigate the recent curriculum changes in Wales.
What do you think could be done to help the STEM sector in Wales?
Ultimately, we need everyone to recognise the system inequalities within STEM in Wales and be working hard to widen who ‘does’ science in Wales. There could be a child sitting in a classroom in Wales somewhere who has the potential to go on to invent a brilliant green energy solution or public health innovation and if they’re sitting there thinking science isn’t for “people like me” we risk losing all that potential. That is a national tragedy and we all need to be working to reduce that risk.