By Lucy Chen, CREST Youth Panel member

Throughout academia, I have seen my fellow students slowly become more consumed by exam deadlines, paying less attention to activities that might fuel passion and curiosity in certain subjects. As a result, one thing I aim to encourage in students at my school is this drive to discover, to find joy in learning. It’s for these reasons I joined the British Science Association’s CREST Youth Panel.

The CREST Youth Panel consists of students aged 13 – 19 who have gained a CREST Award. Volunteering with the British Science Association (BSA) at biannual meetings, Panel members provide their own opinions on the progress of CREST-partnered schemes and the development of STEM across the UK.

This year’s first meeting was held in February. The Panel delved into a range of STEM topics, such as communication skills, education policy, and IRIS research schemes.

STEM clubs

The meeting was opened by Jackie Flaherty, an ESERO-UK Space Ambassador and Ogden Trust Teacher Fellow. She discussed her reasons behind creating STEM clubs for primary school pupils and highlighted the benefits of recruiting sixth formers to lead club events as Student Ambassadors. The Ambassadors were given funded training from the Royal Institution and gained skills in teamwork, planning, and teaching.

Emphasis was placed on the importance of bridging the gap between primary and secondary schools in the promotion of STEM subjects, to spark creativity and independent learning skills in future generations. Panel members were prompted to come up with ways they could kick-start similar schemes in their local area, through team projects such as CREST SuperStar or Destination Imagination.

Science policy

The panel also discussed upcoming BSA STEM-related policies with Louis Stupple-Harris, the BSA’s Research and Campaigns Manager. The group were asked to provide their opinions on the long-term impacts of education policy. They proposed changes to the ways education is implemented, aiming to create a system that is more supportive of the student population.

Institute for Research in Schools (IRIS)

IRIS aims to provide resources for students to carry out their own research projects, allowing schools access to equipment, data, and software. The Youth Panel were given radiation data from the International Space Station as part of IRIS’ TimPix scheme. Members analysed and interpreted the data, highlighting the importance of curiosity and innovative thought in research. Through this, young people will gain the confidence and skills necessary to pursue a possible career in STEM.

BSA branches

Finally, a BSA representative gave a presentation on developments in new BSA branches across the UK, from Orkney to Cornwall. In groups, the Panel took on volunteering roles to explore the thought process behind hosting BSA science events. Together, they devised different ways to make STEM more accessible to a wider range of audiences, regardless of background.

A previous CREST Youth Panel meeting

Following the insightful discussions and having reflected on the meeting, I can see that the CREST Youth Panel is an integral part of the BSA’s decision-making process. By allowing young people to participate in lively debate and discussion, the BSA is giving a voice to a new generation of STEM representatives. Through their involvement, students are given the opportunity to influence issues that directly affect them and change the way STEM is established across the UK.

As a member of the CREST Youth Panel, it has given me a unique chance to collaborate with like-minded people. I aim to study biochemistry with a focus on research; joining the panel has provided opportunities to conduct my own research ahead of university, which is an invaluable opportunity. I would encourage anyone who has done or is about to do a CREST Award to consider being part of the Panel.

And finally, I’d like to pass on my thanks to everyone who attended for their insightful contributions!