There is a great demand for technically skilled people in our information-driven society. S.T.E.A.M., an acronym that stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths, is an interdisciplinary approach to learning. Being both physicists and robotics instructors, we decided to launch a project for young enthusiasts, specifically including girls, who are traditionally underrepresented in the sciences.

NEXT GENERATION OF INNOVATORS

In the end, we achieved our aims, we have prepared the next generation of innovators. By teaching science and technology literacy, we have increased the level of interest in all those who might, one day, wish to work in fusion or other future-relevant subjects.

CREATE-EVALUATE-IMPROVE

The Ev3storm roboter is one of the models the school children learned to programme. Picture: The Lego Group

The school children learned to programme little robots using, for example, the Lego Mindstorms EV3 Set you see here. Picture: The Lego Group

“Transformers visit my school” is a scheme designed for primary and middle school pupils. With the help of Lego Mindstorms robotics kits, the children have learned how to design and construct a robot, attach sensors, think in terms of algorithms and program the tiny machine. The partakers even approached difficult scientific concepts, such as the physics of sensors, more easily. Hands-on activities are used to fill the gaps left by traditional education methods. Our participants enjoyed their practical challenges including building, testing, programming and troubleshooting. They worked excitedly and creatively and let their team spirit guide them. Our role, in the meantime, was to mentor and lead them, allowing the young engineers to take their own initiatives and creative risks, and to explore their different levels of expertise and imagination. We discovered that the satisfaction of accomplishment was a further motivation to the teams. They finally realised that science is everywhere and ready to be discovered!

ELEMENTARY KNOWLEDGE

Nowadays, success results from what we are able to do with knowledge acquired. Hence, in addition to preparing our future workforce, it is essential to spread the benefits of S.T.E.A.M. education. Engaging children from an early age in special processes, enables them to cultivate and capitalise on their own interests and, moreover, their curiosity. By watching them confront the technical difficulties with the Lego robots, we understood how they learned to investigate. “I enjoyed that we worked as a team in the Robotics First Lego League in Greece. Everyone had a distinct role, but we needed to collaborate and share our ideas in order to complete the tasks”, says nine year old Eudoxia Karlati-Koufopoulou Another fascinating aspect was that ignorance aids learning and further improvement. By this we mean, failures are considered to be part of the discovery process thus leading to a better approach. “I learnt to take risks. I evaluated my constructions and improved them”, states Lucas Lenard, a sixth grade primary student.

I learnt to take risks. I evaluated my constructions and improved them.

Lucas Lenard

CONNECTING ART AND S.T.E.M.

Can there ever be a connection between Art and S.T.E.M.? According to Leonardo Da Vinci, we need to “realise that everything connects to everything else”. Those additional skills make sciences applicable and innovative in real life. Mathematical concepts such as spatial awareness or geometry are easily approached by art while cultivating a basic scientific tool: the power of observation. Children become open minded and quickly assimilate new ideas.

According to Leonardo Da Vinci, we need to “realise that everything connects to everything else”

GIRL‘S PIPELINE ISSUES

As was mentioned earlier, it is not news that girls are underrepresented in scientific and technological fields. This will have an impact on the future staff pool. Young women are often engaged in traditionally “girly” stuff. Early intervention with S.T.E.A.M. subjects encourages them to participate. Our project boosted the self-confidence of female participants as they took on the technical challenges. We realised that when girls overcome their fear of failure or non-qualification, they even gear up. In many cases, they were chosen to be team leaders during our competition. In summary, it is important that these positive projects do not remain single events only. Key influencers, such as parents, teachers and specifically women-leaders should further encourage girls to continue in technical fields.

Key influencers, such as parents, teachers and specifically women-leaders should further encourage girls to continue in technical fields.

THE FOUNDATION OF A VISION

Technical education can be applied widely and creatively in order to overcome stereotypes. Working practically with children and encouraging them to explore, enables them to gain a deeper understanding of technological fields. Science has simply become more relevant to them. Indeed, our pupils gained additional skills. They finally realised that S.T.E.A.M is a key way to make their own and others’ lives better”.

authorbox_Irene-PapaI am an undergraduate physicist and a Robotics instructor. Wanting to pursue a career in fusion, I believe that the answer to the question of safe and clean energy is written in the stars! Fusion and its attractive prospects promises a better future, so I would like to participate in the diffusion of this effort.

Irene Papa (28) from Greece is currently based at: Athens, Greece. (Picture: private)

Clear

authorbox_Nikos-MoraitisI am a physicist and my field of expertise is Medical Physics. I have been fascinated by the subatomic world and the power of the nucleus. Fusion is a great example of this power and I think we all must corporate in order to achieve the promising future of vast and clean energy.

Nikos Moraitis (30) from Greece is currently based at: Athens, Greece. (Picture: private)