A recent study from the Royal Academy of Engineering found STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths) have a profound impact on the economic development of a country, yet for years women have continued to be underrepresented in these subjects.
Whilst the number of women graduating in STEM since 2015 has climbed from 22,000 to 24,000 this is still only 26% of all STEM graduates, meaning men continue to represent 74% of all graduates.
22% of STEM workplace roles are done by women. That’s just not good enough.
So what does this have to do with Redgate & Guides?
STEM subjects are in place for students all the way through from primary to university education, and at every level of education the drop-off rate for women staying in these subjects is huge. Getting girls interested in STEM subjects (and, later on, careers in STEM) is critical.
So with this in mind, when the Girl Guiding Cambs East region got in touch with Redgate to see if we’d be up for volunteering a day of our time to help run a STEM day for 1200 Guides from across the region, it didn’t take much encouragement for plenty of us to stick up our hands and give up a Saturday to get involved.
What did we do?
With the kind help of Redgaters Tim Dalton, Ben Mancini, Becky Jackson, Ally Parker, Sophie Jeffery and Stephen Jones, we spent a few hours planning what we could do to really get our classes of 7–14 year olds interested in STEM.
We went with a couple of ideas in the end:
- Our Cozmo robots — we purchased two of these machine learning robots a couple of years ago when ex-Redgate engineer Clare Walsh and I ran a technology day for Fen Drayton primary school
- Building games with Scratch
- Trying to build a game with Python
Ally, Tim and Stephen created a set of fun and captivating games that the Guides could build in 30 minutes and Becky, Sophie and I came up with some story-building games using the robots.
What happened on the day?
We arrived at 8.30 at Ely College and had time to set up and grab a coffee before we started the first of four classes during the day.
We kicked off by welcoming our class of newly-qualified software engineers and explained how the hour-long lesson would run. A brief introduction from Cozmo was then followed by an icebreaker to get the Guides formed into teams of 3–4.
The teams then had 30 minutes to build their projects before running a show and tell with the rest of the class.
Ally, Stephen and Tim did a fantastic job explaining how pair programming and mob programming worked, the importance of collaboration, demoing and prototyping idea.
Sophie, Becky and I had great fun getting our groups to coordinate building a story with the robots whilst trying not to get too diverted by the robots wandering off and doing their own thing.
Across the day we had great ideas from the Guides. It was brilliant seeing how interested all of the children were in building their projects and then showing them to the wider group.
We had elephants crossing the Sahara Desert, boats navigating mazes, rock bands and jazz music being played out of a bowl of fries and our Cozmo robots pretending to be ghosts.
In our wrap up for each group we briefly touched on how important it was for the Guides to consider STEM subjects, before awarding prizes to the best teams.
What was the benefit of doing this?
Right now, you could argue that this was simply good PR for Redgate to be involved in the day. But if just one girl who attended decides to stay in a STEM subject through school, college and university and in ten years’ time sees a job advert for a software engineer role here at Redgate, then we’ll have achieved a major win.
Even if that choice ends up being in science, engineering or maths instead, we’ll all benefit from a more diverse workforce that better represents the 50/50 split between genders in this country.
As for what we individually got out of the day?
I loved the fact that I could use my volunteer day for something so beneficial — with children of my own (including two daughters), I want them to be able to consider a role in technology, so being able to contribute in even a small way to some of that is worth the Saturday I gave up.
Where do we go next?
Well, we’re all now officially Guides with our first badges
Plus, we’ve built some solid relationships with the east region Guides group off the back of the day, so this is unlikely to be the last time we get involved with their work.
If any other local schools, colleges or university's are looking for some inspiration to show their children the importance of STEM subjects then get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org