Fraser Shields is currently studying MSc Information Management within the Department of Computer and Information Sciences. As well as being a postgraduate student, Fraser is a Strathclyde Science Scout. Strathclyde Science Scouts promote the study of STEM subjects at school and university, through peer to peer mentoring, workshops and events. Fraser shares his experience of being a Strathclyde Science Scout and volunteering at STEMfest.
Becoming a Strathclyde Science Scout
In September 2018, I became a postgraduate student at the University of Strathclyde, studying MSc Information Management. After starting my studies, I began looking for opportunities at the university to enrich my experience and gain more experiences that I would be able to include on my CV. Through various advertisements throughout the university, I became interested in joining the Strathclyde Science Scouts and contacted them right away. The Strathclyde Science Scouts were very enthusiastic about my interest and I was quickly welcomed into the group. Members of the group range across a variety of courses and areas of study, including Computing, Chemistry, Physics, Maths and Biomedical Sciences.
Strathclyde Science Scouts visit schools, host workshops and attend various STEM events, with the aim of promoting STEM courses and careers to young people who are beginning to consider their future education and career paths.
As a Strathclyde Science Scout, I was provided with the opportunity to volunteer at STEMfest. STEMfest is a 2-day annual event, held in Glasgow Science Centre, which provides young people from schools in Glasgow and the surrounding areas the opportunity to learn and engage more with the potential career and further study opportunities available to them through studying STEM subjects.
Using Video Games to Educate Young People
The Faculty of Science was represented at STEMfest with the Strathclyde Science Scouts and staff from the Department of Physics, Department of Mathematics & Statistics, Department of Computer and Information Sciences and Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy & Biomedical Sciences hosting stands in the marketplace with fun, interactive activities for the young people attending to get involved in.
Throughout STEMfest I was based at the Computing & Information Sciences stand. We had the perfect method to provide information about Computing and Information Science, with a focus on Software Engineering and Artificial Intelligence and also keep the young people entertained and that was with the help of video games! Various classic games had been programmed onto laptops, which provided the young people attending the opportunity to play games such as Pacman, 2048 and Connect 4.
Our aim was to educate the young people on how software, programming and artificial intelligence can play a part in so many parts of everyday life and to maybe dispel the idea that computing has to be geeky. The games allowed the young people to see that they can use computers to have fun outcomes and let them understand how these different programs and applications work!
Fellow Strathclyde Science Scouts hosted engaging activities for the young people in their specific areas of study including the Towers of Hanoi challenge at the Mathematics & Statistics stand and the opportunity to view ‘what’s under the microscope’ at Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy & Biomedical Sciences stand. As well as the marketplace activities, workshops on Infectious Disease Modelling were hosted by Strathclyde Science Scouts.
What I gained from STEMfest
Not only was the event informative for the students attending, I also found it interesting as a volunteer and a current university student. STEMfest made me aware of how much more “switched on” young people are about technology in general and more complex aspects such as artificial intelligence and programming, compared to the levels of awareness I had when I was their age (no comment on how long ago that was). At the event, I had the chance to chat with young people who were able to talk about the mini-projects they had completed with different programming languages or about how computers understand information or even about how electronic engineering and programming could be used to develop cyborgs and robots.
STEMfest showed me how far education regarding computing has come since I was at school and it made me proud to be actively involved in an industry that is constantly evolving and can show how much it has grown in such a short space of time.