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Can parents help ‘nudge’ students into choosing STEM A-levels?

When young people are asked who has provided them with careers advice and guidance, the most common answer is ‘parents and family’, followed by ‘teachers’.

The Behavioural Insights Team (sometimes known as the Nudge Unit) apply behavioural economics and psychology to understand the choices that people make, and help people make sensible choices.  They often run research trials which test out different interventions to see which is the most effective. They have worked with the Department for Education, National Health Service, with HMRC, with local councils, police forces, and many other organisations.

Now the team are looking to see if parents and teachers can help encourage their girls to choose STEM A-levels, and need secondary schools to sign up to be part of the trial.

The two interventions include:

  • Sharing a website with parents that provides information about the usefulness of STEM and guidance on how to talk to their child about A-level subject choices
  • Short classroom based activities targeted at students to overcome the perception that STEM is not ‘for them’

Both of these interventions link closely to what NUSTEM is doing in the North East, so we’re really interested to see the results of the trial.

If your school would like to get involved, there are more details in this pdf, and you can contact Kathryn or Jessica at the Behavioural Insights Team.

Kathryn.Atherton@bi.team  or Jessica.Hunt@bi.team

Plan B

As part of the ESH Building my Skills programme each year, NUSTEM staff take part in a mock interview day with students from North East secondary schools. During the day, students have the opportunity to be interviewed once or twice by representatives from local businesses and other organisations.  At NUSTEM we see the interviews as part-practice and part ‘behind the scenes’ to gives students an insight into what they might be asked and why in an interview.

I ask the students to tell me about themselves, and what career they might thinking about.  As part of Building my Skills they will have already done some research into possible sectors of interest to them, so they all have something to say.  There’s always an wide range of detail in their answers; with some young people knowing very clearly what they want to do and why, and others who have only a vague idea.

Regardless of their answer, my follow-on question is:

‘What is your plan B?’

This often throws the students as I suspect they’re not often asked what happens if they’re not successful.

What is most interesting to me is that, in their answers, students will often change the whole direction of what they would like to do for their plan B.  For example, I’ve had students who had been interested in midwifery suggest that their plan B would be ‘something to do with drama’, or who wanted to be a tennis player, but their plan B would be ‘I dunno, maybe history?’.  Very few give suggestions that are in a similar sector to the one they are planning for.

At this point in the interview, I’ll talk about other possibilities that the students could do that is not their first choice, but that is linked to it.  Often I’ll suggest websites or resources that they might like to investigate.  For example, if a student wants to study medicine, but their predicted grades make that look unlikely we’ll talk about what is it about medicine that interests them.  They could study radiography, occupational therapy, Information management and so on.  (Although I do have to admit that if it’s the salary that they find attractive, then the other options aren’t so well paid!)

I would encourage all students (and teachers and parents/carers) to think about their Plan B.  Just in case.

Some useful websites:

Health careers from the NHS – an invaluable website for students that want to work in healthcare, and for their teachers and families to find out the huge range of careers.

This is Engineering from Engineering UK – looking at the opportunities in engineering from a range of different viewpoints e.g. design, space, fashion, sport

National Careers Service website – a government backed website which includes an A-Z description of over 800 different careers.

New competition for secondaries: Microsoft STEM Student Challenge

I know, I know – the education world is awash with competitions. Stick with it, this one’s a little different and it looks like it could be genuinely fun… and also smart.

Microsoft Research in Cambridge are running a competition which builds on students’ knowledge of STEM subjects, but also on their research skills and particularly their imaginations. The challenge goes:

  1. Pick one of these themes:
    1. Artificial intelligence and virtual reality
    2. Data security
    3. Healthcare
  2. Now come up with an original technology idea which you think could exist in that field in 20 years’ time.
  3. Make a short film which showcases your idea.
  4. Submit the film.

Prizes and the experience for finalists look good, and there’s a clear information pack available at the challenge website. The competition’s open to teams of 4-6 students, in years 8-10.

What I like about this particular competition is that the central conceit is both accessible and clever. We all dream about what the future might bring, this is simply asking you to commit to (and describe) a specific vision. In doing so, you’ll have take what you know about STEM subjects and extrapolate that thinking twenty years into the future. This isn’t some well-intentioned-but-ham-fisted attempt to ‘make science relevant to our everyday lives,’ it’s an invitation to students to find the relevance for themselves. That’s clever.

Also, I’m a sucker for a schools’ STEM film competition.

The only thing I find a little surprising is that there’s no category for primary-age entrants. A pity for them, but also for the judges, who’ll miss out on genius like this. Ah well, maybe next year?

Anyway – secondaries: get your cameras out, sharpen your pencils, brush up on your tech skills and prop-making, and show us how the world’s going to be in 2037. Registration deadline is 8th December, with entries due by 10th February 2017.

 Microsoft STEM Student Challenge website.

Ooh, one last bit of advice: with our Technology Wishing Well we’ve collected about 800 wishes for future tech, from Maker Faire UK and Big Bang North-East. We haven’t yet done a proper analysis, but as a quick hint: lots of people want a flying robot dog which does their homework and tidies their room. Which would indeed be awesome, but you might not be the only entrants to suggest such a thing to this competition.

 

World Book Day

Today is World Book Day.  Across the country, schools will be celebrating books and reading.  Here at Think Physics we’re very keen to encourage reading too.

For our primary work with younger children, we’ve been looking for fiction books which feature science, technology, engineering or maths (STEM).  And if possible, a strong female main character.  We’ve found a few.  We’ve saved them onto a pinterest board for you to have a look at.

At secondary, we’d also like to be able to share fiction books which feature STEM with a strong female main character.  It’s a bit harder to do though.  For strong female main characters, there is of course, The Hunger Games trilogy with Katniss Everdene, but they’re not really STEM related.  I also find that, as an adult, some of the themes in young adult fiction are really gruesome or disturbing.  I’m not sure why that doesn’t seem to bother my children, but it doesn’t.  There are some young adult books which have a link to STEM, but in general, it’s far less central to the story.  There’s a useful list of books on the School Library Journal website, which gives some examples.

Finally, if you want to have a read of non-fiction popular science books, then have a browse through the shelves of the Science Teaching Library, curated by Alex Weatherall.  There are some great books on there suitable for the general reader.

If you have any recommendations, please do let us know.

Events

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Careers Pages

Careers in the Curriculum CPD

Careers in the Curriculum: resources for subject teachers

Including careers contexts in your teaching will open up different possible career options for your students AND help them deal with questions where there is an unusual context.

This page is a brief outline of a CPD session that NUSTEM developed as part of the NECOP project here in the North East. It provides some useful links and ideas for subject teachers who are looking to include careers in their classroom.

Career guidance in England


Schools statuatory duty

The government published its careers strategy in December 2017 which includes adults as well as young people.  However, as a result of the strategy, schools have a number of updated statutory duties related to careers.

Important points:

  • Schools should secure independant careers guidance for all years 8 – 13 pupils.
  • By September 2018 all schools and colleges should have a named career leader, and publish details of their careers programme.
  • By end 2020 every school should  offer every young person seven
    encounters with employers – at least one each year from year 7 to year 13. Some of these encounters should be with STEM employers.

Gatsby Career Benchmarks

The Gatsby Career Benchmarks are a set of 8 characteristics of good careers programmes.  Using the Benchmarks schools can audit and plan their careers programmes so that they are providing good careers information, advice and guidance to their pupils.

The key benchmark for subject teachers is Benchmark 4: Linking curriculum learning to careers.

All teachers should link curriculum learning with careers. STEM subject teachers should highlight the relevance of STEM subjects for a wide range of future career paths.
By the age of 14, every pupil should have had the opportunity to learn how the different STEM subjects help people to gain entry to, and be more effective workers within, a wide range of careers.

More information

Good Career Guidance website gives more details about the benchmarks, including some of the findings from the North East pilot.

The Careers and Enterprise Company was set up to support schools with careers. They have published an implementation guide to help schools with the careers strategy.

Planning for careers in your classroom

As a department you should liaise with the careers lead in your school or college. They will have a lot of information already that you can use, or will be able to work with you to include careers in your classroom.

Spend time planning careers links into your schemes of lessons. For each topic or theme, identify one career link and write it into your lesson plan (or equivalent).  Work with colleagues to share the load.

If you try to put links in ‘on the fly’ you’re likely to fall back on unconscious biases or stereotyped examples.

  • Tap into the expertise of parents and families. Use homework activities to (sensitively) find out who does what:
    • What links to topics do your students’ families already have?
    • Think hobbies as well as jobs.
  • Use your alumni. Keep links with them so that you can share what students from your school are doing.
  • Make contact with your local Enterprise Adviser Network or STEM ambassador hub. These organisations can link you to professionals who could come and talk with the department about where topics link into their work, or how the skills that they developed studying your subject has helped them in their career.

Useful Career Links

There are many sources of career information online that teachers can make use of. Here are some that we find useful:

  • NUSTEM careers resources including worksheets linked to North East companies.
  • STEM Learning eLibrary (was the National STEM centre eLibrary). Searchable repository of STEM related resources.  You can search it to find career resources linked to specific topics or subjects. (Free registration required)
  • National Careers Service Job profiles. An A-Z list of different career options.
  • NHS Careers website. Invaluable for students who ‘want to be a doctor’ but who, due to the competitive nature of that profession, would do better thinking about other options.
  • Engineering careers cover a wide range of areas including biomedical, chemical and mechanical engineering.  This is Engineering has lots of information about where engineering is used and what it involves.
  • iCould is mainly aimed at young people, but is useful for teachers.  It includes some short films of people talking about their chosen careers.

School Deliveries

23rd March – Pathways Day Y9

Today we’ve been asking the big question: why study STEM subjects? I could have gone on all day (I’m sure you’re glad I didn’t!), but since we only had an hour we had to limit ourselves a bit.

Still, we managed to discuss skills and attributes, the Hyperloop, windowless airplanes, Microsoft Hololens, robotic prostheses, smart clothing, and the future of glass! Not a bad start, and we’ve only just scratched the surface of where STEM subjects can take you!

Have a look over at our careers case studies pages to find out more about potential pathways and don’t forget to have a look at our calendar to find out how you can get involved with more events and activities.

Year 9 Seaton Burn Careers Day – 22nd Feb 2016

Hello Year 9,

It was great having the opportunity to work with you today and discuss future opportunities using physics and STEM.  I hope you consider these areas and if you would like further information or support, please contact Think Physics or leave a comment below.  You had some great questions, if you have anymore again add them to the comments box below.

The presentation we showed you (and available below) is packed with videos showing what is currently happening and future ideas.  All require people who have STEM skills and the academic understanding of STEM, which can be linked to a variety of roles including research, development, design, production, marketing and promotion to name but a small few.

http://

Emma & James

Cramlington Year 9 Assembly – Thursday 28th January 2016

Hello Year 9.

Last week I had the pleasure of delivering assembly and introducing you to a great and inspirational role model Elon Musk.  We are influenced by people around us everyday. Many when asked this question pipe up with family, teachers, Christiano Ronaldo. All are great role models and probably all for different reasons.  Ronaldo for example is a talented footballer, but he also displays a number of great characteristics which make him stand out, like for example; determination, commitment and a passion to win and succeed in the beautiful game.  These characteristics are what make him successful, its not just his footballing ability. He is the first on and last one off the training pitch. The same could be said for great actresses, entrepreneurs anyone really who is successful.  Only a few people succeed because of luck alone!

Elon Musk… pretty cool guy eh?  I have added below the slides so you can have a look at all the videos and share with friends and family.  Also check out the company websites mentioned and their career pages. The SpaceX careers page has a load of cool jobs like: commercial director, internship opportunities, propulsion development engineer (making rockets go fast), or software development… there are lots on there.  Yes these job opportunities are in America but if this is the type of company YOU want to work for, why let the Atlantic Ocean stop you in your pursuit of job happiness?   This is however just one example of a company doing really exciting and innovative stuff.  Have a look and find out what other companies are out there and interest you, thinking also about what STEM skills and knowledge you need if you wanted to be the next Elon Musk.

See you soon!

Emma

http://

Heworth Grange Assemblies: An Inspirational Role Model – w/c 1st February 2016

Hello Heworth Grange,

This week myself and James will be in assembly and introducing you to a great and inspirational role model Elon Musk.  We are influenced by people around us everyday.  Year 7 when asked who they were inspired by named family, teachers, Christiano Ronaldo. All are great role models and probably all for different reasons.  Ronaldo for example is a talented footballer, but he also displays a number of great characteristics which make him stand out, like for example; determination, commitment and a passion to win and succeed in the beautiful game.  These characteristics are what make him successful, its not just his footballing ability. He is the first on and last one off the training pitch. The same could be said for great actresses, entrepreneurs anyone really who is successful.  Only a few people succeed because of luck alone!

Today you were introduced to Elon Musk… pretty cool guy eh?  I have added below the slides so you can have a look at all the videos and share with friends and family.  Also check out the company websites mentioned and their career pages. The SpaceX careers page has a load of cool jobs like: commercial director, internship opportunities, propulsion development engineer (making rockets go fast), or software development… there are lots on there.  Yes these job opportunities are in America but if this is the type of company YOU want to work for, why let the Atlantic Ocean stop you in your pursuit of job happiness?   This is however just one example of a cool company.  Have a look and find out what other companies are out there and interest you, thinking also about what STEM skills and knowledge you need if you want to be the next Elon Musk.

See you soon!

Emma

http://

Year 11 Careers Day – 26th January 2016

Get in… the QR code and link worked!!!

It was great having the opportunity to work with you today and discuss opportunities after year 11 using physics and STEM.  I hope you consider these areas and if you would like further information or support, please contact Think Physics or leave a comment below.

The presentation I showed you (and available below) is packed with videos showing what is currently happening and future ideas.  All require people who have STEM skills and the academic understanding of STEM, which can be linked to a variety of roles including research, development, design, production, marketing and promotion to name but a small few.

Good luck with your upcoming exams, the team and I wish you every success!

Emma

12th January: Atoms to Astrophysics

What a great way to start the year; exploring the universe from the incredibly tiny to the unbelievably large. You can find out more about very tiny or very large things using this The Scale of the Universe  animation. I could spend all day zooming in and out. We talked about protons, neutrons and electrons today, but we didn’t mention the even smaller particles that they are made of. Have an explore. Did you spot the transistor gate that’s about the size of a virus? These are what give your phone its processing power. Current transistors are as small as 7nm – that’s 0.000007mm. The smaller they are, the more we can pack onto a microchip and the more processing power we can get. However, it looks like we might struggle to make them any smaller. As we get smaller we enter the realms of “quantum tunneling” which can cause all sorts of problems. To prevent this, we may have to start making our chips out of something other than silicon. (I like mine made out of potato!  ba-dum-tish!)

One option might be a new material invented in Manchester called Graphene. It is only a single atom thick and could be used to make even smaller transistors. It’s super light and super strong and is changing the way we design and construct new products. If you want to get a glimpse of the material of the future, look here.

 

We also looked at the International Space Station, which you can watch, live, here. If you want to see the ISS fly overhead, use the tracker website here. You can give Tim a wave, and if you tweet him first (@astro_timpeake), he might just wave back!

6th January: Explore your Universe

Happy New Year, Kenton! What a great way to start the year; exploring the universe from the incredibly tiny to the unbelievably large. You can find out more about very tiny or very large things using this The Scale of the Universe  animation. I could spend all day zooming in and out. We talked about protons, neutrons and electrons today, but we didn’t mention the even smaller particles that they are made of. Have an explore. Did you spot the transistor gate that’s about the size of a virus? These are what give your phone its processing power. Current transistors are as small as 7nm – that’s 0.000007mm. The smaller they are, the more we can pack onto a microchip and the more processing power we can get. However, it looks like we might struggle to make them any smaller. As we get smaller we enter the realms of “quantum tunneling” which can cause all sorts of problems. To prevent this, we may have to start making our chips out of something other than silicon. (I like mine made out of potato!  ba-dum-tish!)

One option might be a new material invented in Manchester called Graphene. It is only a single atom thick and could be used to make even smaller transistors. It’s super light and super strong and is changing the way we design and construct new products. If you want to get a glimpse of the material of the future, look here.

 

We also looked at the International Space Station, which you can watch, live, here. If you want to see the ISS fly overhead, use the tracker website here. You can give Tim a wave, and if you tweet him first (@astro_timpeake), he might just wave back!

 

9th December: Atoms to Astrophysics

This afternoon I visited St Mary’s to take part in their after school science club. We explored the whole scope of Physics, from atoms to astrophysics. For more information check out our workshop page here, and make sure you have a go with this scale of the universe tool. I could spend all day playing around with it.

A slightly older version can be seen below. Don’t be frightened by the outdated fashions and wonderful 1970s music (by Elmer Bernstein, no less!); this video is a beautiful journey through our universe. Just don’t forget, our understanding has moved on since Charles and Ray Eames made this video in 1977.

9th December: More Rollercoasters

This morning, I was back at Kenton for some more K’nex rollercoaster building. There’s a lot that goes into building a rollercoaster, and we only just scratched the surface. For more details, head over to our workshop notes page where you’ll find videos, games, and more information than you can shake a (K’nex) stick at. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have six rollercoasters to dismantle and put back into the correct boxes. Sigh.

4th December: Rollercoasters

How many people does it take to build a rollercoaster? It’s no joke; today we looked at the range of specialists needed to design and construct a rollercoaster, all so that you can get your fix of adrenalin at the local theme park.

I’ve written up some more information on our roller coasters activity page, with a few videos that are worth watching and links to some design-your-own games.

Activity

National Careers Week: An inspirational STEM Role Model

National Careers Week is upon us, 7th-11th March 2016! A celebration of careers guidance and a focus for activity across the UK. Be sure to explore the official website for resources, including the free-download 2016 digital magazine.

If you’re looking for a quick case study to inspire your students, here’s a role model who’s current, pushes boundaries, and is positively dripping in STEMness:

Elon Musk. Picked by business magazine Forbes as the 38th most powerful person in the world, Musk is a self-made billionaire. South-African born, Canadian-American, and a physics graduate, he’s made his name as an entrepreneur, building businesses like PayPal, SpaceX and Tesla Motors. Elon’s back story is just as fascinating as what he is doing now, and as a leading visionary of the tech world, his work is likely to affect the lives of us all.

Messages to take away and reiterate:

Whether your students see themselves as the next Elon Musk or would like to work for someone like him, this presentation should encourage discussion about STEM careers as well as the characteristics and attitude to learning and life that Musk displays. His company SpaceX has a terrific careers page with a load of cool jobs like: commercial director, internship opportunities, propulsion development engineer (making rockets go fast), or software development. Yes, these job opportunities are in America, but if this is the type of company in which you’re interested, why let the Atlantic Ocean stop you in your pursuit of job happiness?

What’s happening in North East England?

Here’s a tiny handful of the most exciting and dynamic companies in our region. Have a look on their careers pages to gain an understanding of the types of jobs they offer, and the people they are looking for…

  • Nomad Digital: A Newcastle based company providing wireless networking for trains, right around the globe.
  • Hitachi Rail Europe: Based in Newton Aycliffe, Hitachi are fitting out trains to be used all over the world.
  • Kromek: Based at Netpark Sedgfield. Kromek develop a range of radiation detection equipment used in the nuclear industry, medical imaging and for security screening.
  • Sanofi – Aventis: a multinational company with a site in Newcastle who manufacture a range of pharmaceutical products for the healthcare industry. (Careers Page)
  • Tharsus: helping other companies develop their products through a team of developers with skills in manufacturing, prototyping and managing

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