NUSTEM COVID-19 Update

Theory of Change paper published

You might have noticed common threads appearing through our work over the last few years. Behind the scenes, we’ve been working towards the development of an overall theory of change to guide our projects and delivery. Increasingly – as you’ll know if you work with us directly – we’ve been talking about it too. You might even have seen diagrams, which we’ve waved around or shown on too-small-to-read slides.

Finally – at last! — our Theory of Change has been published, as a proper peer-reviewed paper. Hurray!

You can access the paper from this page – it’s free to download, via the link in the upper-right corner of that page.

Shortlisted – UK Career Development Awards

Friends of NUSTEM will know that we have been supporting primary teachers with careers in the classroom for many years. It can sometimes feel challenging for teachers to know what careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) might link to the topics that they are teaching.

To help out, NUSTEM developed our Primary Careers Tool. We gathered a database of over 100 jobs in STEM, and then sorted them by National Curriculum Topic. Using the Primary Careers Tool, it takes only a few minutes to add a career into a science lesson and get the children talking about the skills needed for different jobs.

We’re very pleased to announce that the Primary Careers Tool has been shortlisted in the category “Career-Related Learning in Primary Schools” at the UK Career Development Awards, from the Career Development Institute.

The award ceremony is on 11th March, and we’re really excited to meet the other shortlisted organisations and chat about primary schools and careers.

(update 31st Jan: an earlier version of this post noted that the same project was also shortlisted in the category “Use of Technology in Career Development”. This turns out to have been an error on the part of the award organisers, and we have corrected the post accordingly.)

Airbus GEDC Diversity Award – Shortlisted

It’s not just us who bang on about diversity in the engineering workplace — some of the really big players in the sector do too. Organisations like: Airbus. They might be best-known for their aeroplanes, but they’re also doing some really interesting work around diversity and particularly gender representation in their workforce.

To reflect their committment, a few years ago they established a global Diversity Award scheme, in collaboration with the Global Engineering Dean’s Council. The Council brings together heads of engineering faculties and departments from universities around the world, to collaborate, coordinate, and share best practice.

The shortlist for the 2019 Airbus GEDC Diversity Award has recently been announced, featuring some remarkable projects and programmes from universities around the world. The list includes… NUSTEM! Wheee, that’s us!

We’ll find out soon if we’ve made the list of three finalists, which would see us heading to Toulouse to present the project directly to the Jury. But for now, we’re delighted to be in such esteemed company.

Kate back in Antarctica

Last year, we followed Dr. Kate Winter’s trip to the Princess Elisabeth Research Station in Antarctica. A year later she’s back, and already a week behind schedule as wind and snow made it too risky to land her plane at the remote station, for a few days.

In the photo above she’s chatting to the base commander, Belgian explorer Alain Hubert, but for the most part she’s back into the science immediately, while the weather holds. In the photo below, she’s installing RaspberryShake seismometers with her field guide Henri. They’re installing the instruments on the blue ice near the station, hoping to record the timing of ice cracks which happen naturally through the Antarctic Summer.

You might notice something else in the photo, too. Like, say, the giant halo of light around the sun. This is an Antarctic Halo, which Kate describes as (understatement alert!) ‘really cool.’ There are several different atmospheric and light phenomena you might see in Antarctica; this sort of halo is one of the ‘simpler’ ones. It’s sort-of like a rainbow in that it’s formed as light refracts through particles in the air. But if you think about any time you’ve seen a rainbow, you might have noticed that the sun is always behind you. In this case, the sun is clearly in the centre of the halo, and you’re looking at a bright, full circle. This – Kate thinks, and we’d concur though we’d all be happy to be corrected – is a 22° Halo, resulting from the high, wispy clouds you can also see in the photo.

It’s not a particularly rare phenomenon. Indeed, in the right conditions you could see one in Newcastle. But it does make for an awesome photo, and in googling around about the effect we stumbled across this photo too, which is amazing. Or the photo at the top of this article from Smithsonian Magazine, which is the sort of thing you might see in a video game when the rendering engine has broken.

We’ll bring more stories from Kate over the next few weeks. Find out more about her research and life on the ice on her web pages here at NUSTEM.

Tales of Engineering – making magnificent things with children and their families …

After a few months of developing our website and getting our engineers to think about their research bookmarks (yes we have awesome bookmarks) we finally started taking our engineers into schools. One of the first visit we did was last wee, to a couple of schools in Darlington.

In the image below you can see Paula (right) and her most magnificent thing as imagined and built by children in a reception class.

Also last week, we took the Tales of Engineering project to this year’s Association For Science Education (ASE) Annual Conference at Reading University. This is one of the largest Science Education Conference of its kind and we were delighted to have engaged with teachers and practitioners, showcasing how storytelling can be used to talk positively about engineering with children in EYFS.

In the meantime we are keeping ourselves busy booking more schools and cultural venues visits, so keep checking our events calendar to see if we are going to be near you!

STEM jobs at Museums Northumberland

NUSTEM have been collaborating with Museums Northumberland this year and they have two new projects starting, both of which have a number of new jobs available.

The first project, Union Chain Bridge: Crossing Borders, Inspiring Communities is an ambitious project involving the conservation of the internationally significant Union Chain Bridge, the preservation of its intangible heritage and an extensive programme of public engagement. Co-owned by two local authorities, the Union Chain Bridge is symbolic of this uniquely collaborative project that comprises a partnership between Northumberland County Council, Scottish Borders Council, Museums Northumberland with support from the Friends of the Union Chain Bridge.

As well as the conservation of the Bridge itself, Museums Northumberland will be working with schools in the area around the bridge (and on both sides of the border). NUSTEM helped Museums Northumberland plan the schools work using our model of school engagement – working with children, families and teachers over a sustained period of time, in this case 3 years.

The second project, Our Past, Your Future, was funded by the North of Tyne Combined Authority STEM and Digital Programme.

Taking the long view of industry and innovation in the North of Tyne Combined Authority region and building on the skills and expertise of the delivery partners, this project will map the unique and rich STEM heritage of the area from prehistory to the modern day, with an aspirational eye to the future. Impactful, targeted school-based interventions and community-based enrichment activities, delivered by Museums Northumberland and  NUSTEM, will go some way towards redressing current imbalances by increasing science capital and building long term STEM career aspirations in our region’s young people. Again, this project builds on NUSTEM’s model of sustained engagement with children, families and teachers.

The new roles are based either in Ashington or Berwick, depending on the project.  Although they are based in museums, there is a significant STEM focus to the roles so could be of interest to a range of people.

The roles are:

  • Audience Development Manager (£42k per annum, 37 hours per week, Jan 23)
  • Digital Heritage Outreach Officer NTCA (£23k pro rata, 0.5fte, July 22)
  • Learning and Outreach Officer (STEM) (£23k per annum, 37 hours per week, July 22)
  • Learning and Outreach Officer (STEM) UCB (£23k per annum, 37 hours per week, Jan 23)
  • Learning and Outreach Officer UCB (£23k per annum, 37 hours per week, Jan 23)

There is also a Project Manager role for an external consultant:

  • Project Manager NTCA (Fee £30,000 including VAT and Expenses between Jan 2020 and August 22)

The closing date for all the jobs is 6th January 2020

For full details on all roles, and to apply, see here: https://museumsnorthumberland.org.uk/about-us/jobs-opportunities/

First conNecTed device prototypes

Our friends from the Life Science Centre visited us today, and we spent the day hacking with cardboard and servo motors to make these puppets. We’re terribly proud of them.

These are the first three prototypes of the sort of devices we’ll be making with a few hundred families across the North of Tyne region, over the next few years. Keep your eye on the conNecT project page to find out more. We’re heavily in the development phase of the project now, with workshops due to start around Easter time 2020.

We’ve lots of corners to smooth off between now and then. We’ve really struggled today to find servos in our collection which work reliably with 3.3V devices like the Kniwwelino boards we’re wanting to use. Most of our servos didn’t work with Micro:Bits, either. So we’ve some work to do with our supplier on sourcing servos we trust. Or maybe it’s the power supplies… There’s also a tonne of work remaining on the software stack to make all this easier. It does work, but it currently involves more faffing than we think is necessary: we’re planning to build some custom blocks to make puppets easier to control.

We spent much of the day, however, discussing how we want the workshops to run, and how we think families might feel about different parts of it. The project is intended to find a balance point between technology, engineering and design skills. That’s still elusive, but we’re closer to it than we were.

Also, we have flapping birds and a cat which, for much of the day, responded to ‘sad’ by just tipping itself over and refusing to get back up again. So that’s a good day’s work, we think.