The Big Bang: how to get young people excited about science and engineering

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For many years organisations such as EngineeringUK and Young Engineers have been banging on about how we need to enthuse and inspire young people about careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (otherwise known as STEM). In fact research done by the Careers Research Advisory Council show that young people are not choosing STEM subjects because they are seen as too difficult, un-aspirational and un-sexy whilst EngineeringUK recently reported an alarming statistic that only 7% of careers advisors and lecturers say that they would currently recommend a career in engineering to their brightest students.

So, what better way of motivating and informing young people about how exciting and quite frankly sexy science and engineering can be than by bringing them all together in one action packed and interactive event. This is exactly what the Big Bang Fair has set out to do – celebrate and raise the profile of young peoples’ achievements in science and engineering as well as encouraging them to take part in STEM initiatives. The regional Big Bang Fair London was held recently at Westminster Kingsway College and over 1300 young people attended who were all captivated by the demonstrations, workshops, exhibition stands and theatrical shows taking place.

The fair also showcased 74 student projects who were all competing in the London regional heats of the Young Engineer for Britain, National Science and Engineering Competition and CREST Awards. For 15 to 18 year olds there were certainly some quite impressive ideas such as Charles Barton, a pupil at Westminster School who won the Young Engineer’s competition for 17-18 year old category for his Sunlight Lamp, an RGB LED desk lamp that wakes you up naturally by imitating the colours of a sun rise. Other winning projects included the world’s smallest water museum, an antidote to chilli, metallic jewellery, a ladder attachment to store your tools and a hydroponics garden.

The winners of the regional London event will go on to present their projects at the national Big Bang Fair, which is taking place at London’s ExCel from 10 to 12 March 2011. There are high hopes for this event as the 2010 event proved very successful with over 22,500 people attending including students, teachers and others in the STEM community. So, instead of shaking your head in shame at how few young people are taking an interest in the career path that you have chosen why not get involved.

In fact, Stephen Leonard, the Chief Executive of IBM UK and Ireland, who attended the event and had this to say: “Today’s world is extremely complex with tough challenges to overcome. These range from how our cities function and deliver services for their citizens to how we collaborate to address issues such as climate change. Scientific, technological, engineering and maths knowledge is fundamental to how business and society together solve these far-reaching problems to make the world work smarter. STEM plays a vital role in engaging and inspiring young people to embrace skills in these key subjects”.

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