Using real-world problems to improve STEM engagement

How the BSA's Youth Industrial Strategy Competition develops real-world STEM skills while inspiring students

Science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) have been hailed as subjects needed for the future. In a societal landscape that’s increasingly driven by technological advances such as self-checkouts at the supermarket, online appointments and electric cars, this should come as no surprise. However, an unfortunate paradox comes with these innovations. Leaders across a range of sectors are constantly looking for ways to increase efficiency, extend our life expectancy, and enhance globalisation, so that all manner of opportunities are available. Yet, this progress is also posing new threats to the environment, straining the healthcare system and creating new challenges for data retention and privacy laws, to name a few.

Subsequently, keeping pace with technology so it gives us the most holistic, healthy and fair future is one of the biggest challenges we face. It’s also why sector leaders are frequently warning that those entering the workforce aren’t properly prepared. This has included statements from Microsoft, the Zoological Society of London and the Royal Institution who are feeling the £1.5bn impact in recruitment and additional training costs. It’s a problem that has also been recognised by the government who, in 2017, announced their plans to invest £400m in maths, digital and technical education as part of the Industrial Strategy. The necessity of this investment demonstrates that the skills and knowledge being taught across all levels of education is lagging, and that more needs to be done across the board.

Keeping pace with technology so it gives us the most holistic, healthy and fair future is one of the biggest challenges we face.

However, this is something that can be easily countered through more in-depth learning at an earlier age. Enter the popular call for greater engagement in STEM. We’ve heard it before, but it rings true for a reason – greater engagement in STEM will foster a deeper interest in these core subjects, which will have a trickle-down effect for industry and society.

All in all, we need to provide better-prepared students, but how? Teachers are often curriculum-bound, limiting the real-world learning opportunities they could teach their students that would meet this demand, so it often means thinking outside the box or looking for things beyond the classroom.

Thankfully, heeding the call is the British Science Association which has introduced a new national STEM challenge, the Youth Industrial Strategy Competition. Developed in partnership with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), this competition has been designed to respond to both demands of inspiring greater engagement with STEM and addressing the four most pressing issues facing society – AI and data, clean growth, ageing society and the future of mobility.

Thankfully, heeding the call is the British Science Association which has introduced a new national STEM challenge, the Youth Industrial Strategy Competition.

A free competition for secondary students across the country, the Youth Industrial Strategy Competition also addresses one of the most common critiques from students in STEM by bridging the gap between what they learn at school and valuable practical applications. As part of the competition students are invited to create projects and ideas that will tackle one of these key challenges, to change the world and ultimately create a happy and enriched society. For example, students could design ideas that use AI to improve lives or make society more inclusive for our ageing population. Throughout the process, students are also encouraged to consider their chosen overarching objective, use experimental methods to refine and report on the impact of their project and think about the scalability to affect wide-reaching positive change.

Projects will then be judged by a panel of STEM experts with finalists winning cash prizes and the chance to showcase at the Big Bang Fair 2020.

It’s a learning opportunity that is rich in connections to students’ own experiences and has been developed to push their creative boundaries while also nourishing important skills such as collaboration, perseverance and critical thinking.

Practical, hands-on education has been heralded as the silver-bullet for increasing interest in learning. Through this partnership between the British Science Association and the Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy, it will become just as powerful in creating solutions and changing our future industries, society and the environment.

The details

Name:             Youth Industrial Strategy Competition

Ages:               11-19 years

Cost:                Free

Closing date:  29 November 2019

For more information: https://awards.yisc.org.uk/