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Centre for Advanced Research Computing


ARC is UCL's research, innovation and service centre for the tools, practices and systems that enable computational science and digital scholarship


Role models, outreach and changing the future of STE(A)M

By Samantha Ahern, on 20 December 2023

Promotion image for a Computing for Year 8/9 Girls event that took place on 13th December 2013

STE(A)M is for everyone, so why isn’t that reflected in the demography of STE(A)M professionals?

Sadly, when we look at the prevailing media representation and social narrative around STE(A)M it’s not surprising. Which, is why, events like the one I recently supported at Samuel Whitbred Academy organised by STEMPoint are incredibly important.

Over the course of the day I supported girls from four different secondary schools undertaking two computing challenges, one focused on coding, the other on robotics. In addition to the challenges, the participants also had the opportunity to hear from the STEM Ambassadors, most of them women, supporting the event about our careers, why and how we got into STEM.

This was a key part of the event as it enabled them to learn more about the different types of STE(A)M careers available, pathways into those careers and the diversity of the people working in them.

It is often said that you can’t be, what you can’t see. You also can’t be what you don’t know about. This is why since 2015 I have been a STEM Ambassador.

During this time I have supported a number of events requesting support via the STEM Learning platform, featured in a STEMettes Christmas Calendar, been profiled for BCS Women and designed and delivered some RI Masterclasses. On a more subtle level I use my full first name on publications and when public speaking, re-emphasising that I am a woman in STEM.

A combined image showing the hardware for the micro:bit coding challenge, banners for STEMPoint and VEX Robotics and one of the VEX robots in action.

The event at Samuel Whitbred Academy was a lot of fun, I always enjoy seeing students engaging with a STEM challenge. Especially seeing young women grow in confidence in their abilities and seeing computing as a space for them.

Unsurprisingly I spent most of the day supporting the robotics challenge. It was fantastic to see them rise to the challenge, and in some cases go beyond the extension task. I hope to support further events in 2024.

I strongly recommend becoming a STEM Ambassador to my colleagues, it really does make a big difference to the participants.

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