Over 5,000 ‘lockdown learners’ participated in the 2020 summer STEM Academy, bringing together student teachers, STEM academics and school pupils across the UK.
Launched in 2018, The Academy - an innovative University and Industry led programme - is designed to give pupils and teachers a unique opportunity to work with experts in STEM and experience the real world of STEM subjects beyond the classroom.
COVID-19 response and community
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, for the first time the STEM Academy 2020 was made available online, providing 27 workshops for teachers and students throughout the UK.
Working with experts and industry professionals in a variety of contexts, schools and their communities participated in a range of activities; from exploring survival in space and disease prevention, to building racing cars and coding the fastest transport on Earth.
For its organisers, planning and delivering this year’s Academy during lockdown proved to be an unprecedented challenge.
Dr Margaret Ritchie, of the University of Glasgow’s School of Chemistry, said: “Coronavirus turned our plans for the third year of the Summer STEM Academy upside-down, but it’s also given us the opportunity to open up our workshops and reach a much bigger audience by putting them online, allowing us to build strategic, meaningful and sustainable partnerships between the University and communities across the UK for the future.”
In previous years, STEM Academy workshops have been restricted to schools from 13 local authorities in and around Glasgow, but this year’s online Academy reached schools from Plockton to Portsmouth, while Keele University are planning to send senior pupils from the area to next year’s Face to Face STEM Academy at the University of Glasgow.
Mr Neil Pacheco is the STEM Lead for Kiveton Park Meadows Junior School in Sheffield – the first school to participate in the workshops during its launch. He said, "The real-life scenarios that were given really helped the children to see themselves as scientists and engineers, especially when thinking about risk management. The workshops we participated in were easy to resource and the videos and materials provided made it easy to follow."
"I would like to say a massive thank you to Dr Margaret Ritchie and her fabulous team who have put these fabulous workshops together. My students and I really appreciate and value the hard work that went into each one."
Gareth Warren, Rector and Principal at Morrison’s Academy, said, "The STEM Academy has brought an enthusiasm, interest and curiosity to engineering challenges that hasn't been observed before at Morrison's Academy."
"The learning and skills development is perfectly aligned with our ambitions for developing the next generation of young engineers. To hear a nine-year old girl talk excitedly about hyperloops is the outcome we are seeking."
Planning has now begun in earnest for 2021’s in-person STEM Academy workshops which, following the huge success of the 2020 virtual event, will again be made available online.
Summer STEM Academy
The University of Glasgow-led Summer STEM Academy aims to create partnerships between universities, schools and businesses. Now in its third year of operation, the Academy makes a variety of science and engineering workshops available online, giving learners the opportunity to take part in experiments in topics including robotics, biodiversity and space colonisation.