Mission to Mars

More girls than boys in Cowal would like to pursue a career in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) when they leave school, according to a survey carried out during an exciting and innovative event at Dunoon Grammar last week.

Primary five pupils from schools across the peninsula went along to Dunoon Grammar for “Mission to Mars” – a STEM event organised by the Digital Learning Team and supported by the school and Science Grrl Glasgow.

Pupils got the chance to try a variety of STEM activities, including programming a robot for travel on Mars, building rovers to roam the surface, designing a landing for returning to Earth, constructing water rockets and experimenting with fins for different launch trajectories, exploring materials to use for a heat shield to protect astronauts, testing “Mars” soil to investigate life on Mars, and exploring Mars and the Solar System using virtual and augmented reality.

The event challenged preconceptions about STEM being difficult or inaccessible, as well as the perception of STEM careers being more suited to boys than girls. An evaluation undertaken by pupils at the end of the event indicated that 54% of the girls asked would like to work in a STEM job in the future.  This statistic is made even more positive when compared with the 22% of women who were actually working in STEM careers in the UK in 2018.

Other feedback showed an average score from pupils of 9.2/10 for the event, and the majority reporting that they learned more about science, technology and engineering as a result of the day.

Argyll and Bute Council’s Policy Lead for Education, Councillor Yvonne McNeilly, said: “It’s great to hear such positive feedback, particularly the increase in the number of young women interested in progressing a career in STEM in the future.

“Young women are far too often underrepresented in these fields and this is something I feel strongly about - there should be no stereotypes. Children should be able to follow whatever career path they wish, regardless of gender, and our schools are doing great things to make sure this message is clear.

“STEM subjects form an important part of our everyday lives and, as our young people grow, there will be an increased demand for industry professionals in these subjects. I am delighted to see Dunoon Grammar taking this forward.”

S1 to S3 pupils from Dunoon Grammar’s Junior Pupil Leadership Team, supported the primary five pupils in completing their workshops, showing good leadership and responsibility, as well as acting as role models for the younger pupils.

The event was the first in a series of STEM events that the Digital Learning Team plans to deliver, following their success in obtaining funding for a STEM professional learning grant from Education Scotland, the aim of which is to build the capacity and confidence of practitioners. The team’s next STEM event is due to take place in Oban in January.