University of Dundee bids to cement STEM interest among local girls

Primary school pupils are heading to the University of Dundee for some hands-on STEM learning and to meet female role models

The University of Dundee is hosting pupils from a local primary school in a bid to encourage girls to consider a career in STEM.

For four consecutive Mondays, girls from Victoria Park Primary School are heading to the university’s School of Science and Engineering for some hands-on STEM learning and to meet female role models.

The first visit took place on 8 November – coinciding with Tomorrow’s Engineers Week – and saw attendees introduced to civil engineering and shown how to mix colourful concrete, using recycled toner powder from old printer cartridges. The girls were also invited to create and decorate their own moulds.

Future trips will include an exploration of biomedical and mechanical engineering, and a virtual site visit courtesy of an engineer from Balfour Beatty.

The sessions were organised with help from the Empowerment Academy for Girls, founded by Jill Duke.

“This is our first STEM event and it has been absolutely fantastic,” said Duke. “Last year, when we were exploring careers with the girls, we looked at what differences we can make in the world and what roles we have to do to make these changes. STEM subjects came up in that conversation.

The sessions were organised with help from the Empowerment Academy for Girls

“Their curiosity show it’s real learning,” added Duke. “When you make it engaging, hands-on and practical at a level they understand, you can completely open their minds.”

Dr Margi Vilnay, lecturer within the School of Science and Engineering, said that the university had been “really excited” to host the primary school pupils.

“Collaborations like this are the way forward,” she affirmed. “We’re showing them that engineering is creative and fun, and it’s also all around us.

“To get these enthusiastic young girls involved in engineering at this young age is just fantastic. It’s so important for society.”

The tide appears to be slowly turning on STEM participation, with this year’s A-level entries seeing a 5.79% rise in female participants for STEM-focused programmes, including a 13.02% increase in computing.

Nevertheless, the gap remains a sizeable one to close. Just three years ago, a report from the Institution of Engineering and Technology found that only 26% of girls are looking to pursue a career in STEM, compared to 43% of boys.

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