31 January 2014

Assembly Committees Agree ‘STEM Is Cool’

Parliament Buildings was the venue recently for a special ‘STEM is COOL’ event to promote and highlight the importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects.

Leading experts from the fields of business, science and education as well as Assembly Committee Members were on hand to discuss how we can all work better together to inspire our young people to undertake STEM learning and aim towards careers in the knowledge based industries.

The event was co-hosted by the NI Assembly’s Education; Employment and Learning; Enterprise, Trade and Investment; and Culture, Arts and Leisure Committees in partnership with the Northern Ireland Science Park and we went along to find out more.

Mervyn Storey MLA, Chairperson of the Education Committee was instrumental in bringing today’s event about. He talked to us about the importance of STEM subjects to the local economy and why it is crucial that all government departments must cooperate and coordinate their work in this area. He noted that it is also necessary that educators both at primary and post primary level work to develop greater links with business and industry.

We were delighted to meet some of the local winners from the BT Young Scientist of the Year 2014 competition; Aiofe Nash from St Mary’s College Derry, Ricky Duffield from Wellington College Belfast and Kyle Clarke from South Eastern Regional College.

Ricky told us all about his award winning project, the development of a system to detect the impact of solar flares in the upper atmosphere.

Next up was Aoife who told us how STEM subjects can at first appear a little daunting to students, and how she too was initially worried about whether or not she had the aptitude for STEM. It was really interesting to hear how she overcame her fears, progressed in her chosen subjects and why she would recommend STEM to other young people.

With society as a whole becoming more and more technically advanced, Kyle pointed out that we will require an increasingly skilled work force to allow us to compete on an even playing field with the rest of the world and to continue to grow our economy.

Robin Swann MLA Chairperson of the Employment and Learning Committee who also attended today’s event, elaborated further on Kyle’s point and underlined that in order for us to avail of the opportunities in the technological industries we need our young people to be educated in STEM subjects.

Finally, we caught up with two people who have been at the fore front in promoting STEM for some time and who both very much spearheaded today’s event; Norman Apsley CEO of the Science Park and Joanne Stuart Northern Ireland STEM Ambassador.    

Norman and Joanne agreed that today’s event was all about inspiring young people to aspire to careers in STEM based industries. Norman noted that it’s important to recognise that people are our most important resource and that in order to promote STEM, a cross departmental approach is crucial.

Joanne talked to us about Generation Innovation, a programme ran by the Northern Ireland Science Park set up to inspire young people to get engaged with and excited about STEM subjects and career possibilities in the STEM industries.
Winners from BT Young Scientist of the Year 2014 pictured at a special ‘STEM is COOL’ event at Parliament Buildings.
L-R Robin Swann MLA, Chairperson of the Employment and Learning Committee; Emma Crothers, Wellington College, Belfast; Norman Apsley, CEO Northern Ireland Science Park; Kyle Clarke, South Eastern Regional College; Mervyn Storey MLA, Chairperson of the Education Committee; Aoife Nash, St Mary's College, Derry and Joanne Stuart, NI STEM Champion.