We’ve just had the official results back from a survey run at the TeenTech 2010 event in Reading and they really show the difference a day makes!
The 300 mixed ability students who came from 27 different secondary schools across Berkshire were aged between 11 and 13. When they arrived we asked them to rate the importance of Science and Engineering and to tell us how likely they were to have a career in those areas. And then, after they’d spent a day with our scientists and engineers we asked them the same question.
The results show that just one day with a range of people working across contemporary Science and Engineering can make a significant difference to preconceptions. It’s hard to hold on to the idea of an engineer as a ” fat man with greasy hair” once you’ve met bright young women from BT or IBM and over 70% of students completely re-appraised the value and status they attached to the profession. Although many students arrived believing that scientists and mathematicians were important, even they saw a 45% improvement in their rating.
Talking to enthusiastic people, keen to explain what their daily work involved, whether it was working out how to get the best performance from an electric racing racing car or choosing the best location for a wind farm, made a difference to the number of students who were prepared to think about careers in these fields; 75% saying they were more likely to think about engineering and 68% more enthusiastic about a career in Science. Moving Science and Engineering out of the laboratory and into real life had significant impact.
And by the end of the day, subjects which sometimes seem irrelevant to young people were seen as more valuable for their future.
It was also fascinating to see how the teenagers began to see engineers and scientists in a more “rounded” way. We asked them to circle adjectives they might associate with people working in those professions. The survey showed that, although the students arrived with the preconception that scientists were “clever” , not one circled “fun to be with”. By the end of the day , that had too changed with many appreciating scientists don’t have odd, wild hair and unspeakable social habits. Well, not all of them 🙂