Fart facts and explosions: who said science was dull? With British Science Week underway, we checked out what’s on offer at The Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Fair and the young inventors already making their mark on the world.
Science and maths? They’re difficult and boring, said nearly half the kids in a UK survey, back in 2012. This thinking was reflected in schools across the country, and with dropping rates of students taking up STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects, the government was forced to increase resources to boost interest.
Fast forward seven years and things are changing.
Science got exciting
Kids are re-engaging with STEM, with more uptake in these subjects at A-level. We’re seeing enthusiasm first-hand from our weekly interviews with our UK-wide Trendspotter panel (aged 9-12).
Science is quite literally banging, as our kids rave about wacky experiments from vloggers like Kids Invent Stuff; TV shows such as the a new series of the Netflix hit Brainchild; crazes like slime making, and science parties (forget the tunes, where’s the test tube?).
Online maths challenges from sites such as Times Tables Rockstars and Mathletics, where kids can compete against each other and collect points, make homework far more engaging than looking at a dusty text book. While times table raps mean sums stick in kids’ brains as much as the lyrics to their favourite Drake track.
It’s not only the boys who are getting involved in STEM; the girls as just as keen, which is great news seeing as diversity is still a big issue in these industries. Under 10% of the engineering workforce is female, while those from minority ethnic backgrounds make up just 6%. Initiatives such as Stemettes and #girlswithdrills aim to redress the balance.
‘I want to be a YouTuber’ Despite some reports claiming kids just want to be YouTubers (in a UK survey more than 75 per cent of kids said they’d consider an online video career), research by the Education and Employers charity found many kids were considering STEM careers. The charity's survey of 13,000 UK primary school children aged seven to 11 revealed vet, doctor, scientist and engineer were all in the top ten most popular jobs.
Young inventor Freddie Howells, 13, from Caerleon Comprehensive School in South Wales already knows he wants a career in STEM.
A finalist in this year’s The Big Bang Competition at the UK Young Scientists & Engineers Fair 2019, Freddie spent a year of his ‘spare time’ inventing a facial recognition system to open a front door. ‘I’ve got a great aunt and she has dementia so I wanted to help her as she has problems using a key to get out of the door,’ Freddie explains.
His invention uses a passive infrared sensor and camera to open the door when a recognised face arrives, combined with a text alert system to the chosen recipient.
Kids with skills like Freddie’s are needed more than ever. The UK’s shortage of workers in STEM sectors has been called a ‘crisis’ by industry experts, and is costing the UK economy £1.5 billion a year, says the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
Getting kids interested in STEM
It’s never too early to encourage STEM skills – Freddie started learning coding in a school club aged eight, and soon caught the inventing bug. ‘I built a temperature sensor thing – a web page so you could remotely see what the temperature’s been in your room and it would also Tweet you, too,’ he says.
Events such as The Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Fair, the largest celebration of STEM for kids, are key for generating interest. Under the NEC Birmingham’s roof kids are exploring fart smells with Stefan Gates’ Weirdology, seeing robot chefs cooking up a storm in the kitchen, and witnessing explosive demos from LEGO Masters’ Fran Scott.
Plus there’s a chance to see young inventors’ creations, including projects that aim to prevent pollution and provide aids for people going through mental health problems, to name a few – proving when it comes to solving world problems, kids have got it covered.
‘Kids aren’t screen addicts, we’re learning’
Freddie agrees, and is fed up of kids being labelled. ‘I think it’s become a stereotypical view that all kids are addicted to their phones,’ he says.
‘It’s probably true that we’re increasing time on our screens but most of that time we’re doing stuff productively.’ (Freddie points out that YouTube provided him with vital know-how for his facial recognition invention.)
So don’t be so quick to judge next time you see kids looking at screens. They might just be having a 'Eureka' moment ...
*The Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Fair takes place from 13th-16th March 2019 at the NEC Birmingham. Tickets are FREE – register here.
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Beano for Brands is a kid-first consultancy and agency for brands seeking to connect with a new generation who are already rewriting the rules of engagement, creativity and even the world around them.
Our fortnightly reports are drawn from a wide range of touch points with real kids and families: Trendspotters (a UK-wide panel aged 9-12), insight and analytics from Beano.com – the UK’s fastest-growing kids’ site, external research and 80 years of working with kids. Find out more at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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