We’ll be hearing a lot more from Hattie Jones, Andrew Cowan and Raghd Rostom
Science has opened doors for Hattie Jones
It is strange to say now, but at primary school I was never especially interested in science. However this all changed at age 14, when I moved secondary schools. The teachers at my new school managed to change my perception of the subject by promoting practical involvement, and investigations beyond the syllabus. This gave me the confidence to try new things, a major factor in my involvement in science ever since.
During sixth form, as part of my Gold CREST Award, I had the chance to carry out research at Imperial College under the Nuffield Bursary Scheme. This project was entered into the 2010 National Science & Engineering Competition at The Big Bang.
I was fortunate to win three prizes which resulted in some fantastic experiences: I visited the Scott Polar Research Centre, represented the UK at the European Union Contest for Young Scientists in Portugal and attended the London International Youth Science Forum. I returned to the London Forum this summer as a counsellor.
Thanks to these competitions I was chosen as the UK delegate at the 2011 G(irls)20 Summit in October. The conference, created by the Belinda Stronach Foundation, brought one girl from each G20 country and one from the African Union to Paris to debate and discuss ways in which to empower girls and women globally. The under-representation of girls, especially at the European Union competition, has stood out during my various activites. The issue of women in the sciences was one of three sub-topics under consideration at the G(irls)20 this year, and, as a Chemistry undergraduate, I was pleased to discuss it with the other delegates.
Across the week activities included workshops from Edelman and Google, exploring how to voice our opinions safely through a variety of different media. We also attended seminars on challenging topics such as child commoditization at which we were able to contribute and share our own ideas.
Our communiqué formulated our own thoughts on topics ranging from gender-based violence to education. My proudest memory of the conference was the closing press conference, when we handed this communiqué to Consuelo Remmert (a diplomatic advisor to Nicholas Sarkozy) so she could present it to the G20 leaders.
Overall my studies, along with the generosity of the British Science Association, have opened many doors for me. These experiences (including the intense interviewing periods at the Big Bang!) have really increased my confidence, presentation skills and ability to cope with ‘the unknown’.
Andrew Cowan engages through robotics
Engineering is my passion, and I’m keen to share my enthusiasm with other young people. Of all the STEM subjects, engineering is the most misunderstood. The dull stereotype is of engineers as men in overalls who fix things. I want to show that engineering can be creative and stimulating. A career in engineering can involve working at the cutting edge of design, research and development.
I've always been fascinated by how things work. Through school, my passion for design and technology (DT) was encouraged with a number of prizes and awards, including from Young Engineers for Britain, the National Science & Engineering Competition, and CREST Awards. An Arkwright Scholarship provided inspiration and funding for my ambitious DT Systems and Control A-level project – a Search and Rescue Robot for use in disaster zones.
I entered my robot into the National Science & Engineering Competition, and was thrilled to win the title ‘UK Young Engineer of the Year 2011’. The role is as an ambassador for engineering, encouraging young people to take it up as a career.
My robot is exciting to watch, and immediately engages people. While I was creating it in the school DT room, other students were inspired to make their own robots. I mentored these enthusiasts and set up a lunchtime club to encourage them.
My first public engagement was to exhibit my robot at the DT with ICT Show in Birmingham. Another invitation was to be on two of the judging panels in the first round of the 2012 National Science & Engineering Competition. I really enjoyed talking to the competitors and passing on some of my experience. Having recently gone through school myself, I could recognise which projects went beyond the curriculum, and were original and creative.
Past winners of the National Science & Engineering Competition are helping plan the 2012 event, and it’s great working with such a like-minded group.
I’m still in touch with the electronics department at my old school and continue to mentor younger students. We’re working together on a joint school/university project to break the UK record for the height reached by a high-altitude balloon.
What’s my message for other young people? If design, innovation, creativity and problem solving are your thing, try engineering. If you want to change society for the better, make better use of natural resources and save the world from runaway climate change, make your passion effective through a career in engineering.
Engagement is key, says Raghd Rostom
From a young age, I was always interested in science – asking why and how things happen. Throughout school I would get involved in clubs and competitions outside of lessons, and as I became one of the older students I started helping younger students both with academic and extra-curricular science. Then in Sixth Form, I had my first experience of the world of science research, when I undertook a Nuffield bursary placement at Southampton University. Doing an independent project in research labs was an exciting step, but it was nothing like the science I was used to at school!
This project led to number of competitions, for example the National Science & Engineering Competition and the European Union Contest for Young Scientists, where I had a chance to present my research to both academics and the public. It was at events like this where I learnt the importance of being able to convey scientific ideas and methods in interesting and concise ways, so that everyone - be it young primary school students, members of the public or leading scientists – could understand.
Canopy to Cures
It was a year ago when a fellow student and I set up a project called ‘Canopy to Cures’, looking into medicinal plants in the rainforest. Alongside the scientific research, one of our main aims was public outreach – sharing our research and experiences with schools and the public.
Exhibiting at national science events (for example, the Big Bang fair and the National Science Festival) was extremely rewarding, not only in opening people’s eyes to our research area, but also showing in general how scientists don’t always fit the stereotype image with crazy hair, labcoat and goggles.
One of the biggest outcomes of getting involved with so many exciting science projects is showing what young people can achieve. This summer alone I have been to many conferences representing youth, from the EU Science Journalism Association to the Swiss Forum on the Future of Public Health. These opportunities demonstrate the potential of young people in science, and students have told me that it is inspiring and motivating to hear about what is possible.
I believe engagement with science is key to both encouraging students to follow a science-based education and to increasing the understanding of science in society – because, let’s face it, there can never be too much science!