Meet three members of the same family who are all Youth STEMM Award holders… well nearly!
Current participant Riccardo (16), interviews his siblings Costanza (21, currently studying Mathematical and Computational Science) and Nicolo (19, a Physics student), both Gold level Youth STEMM Award holders, about their experience of taking part:
So how did this all start? Was your school registered with the Youth STEMM Award?
Costanza: It was by chance. I was looking for school holiday work experience after my GCSEs. I stumbled onto the YSA and decided to email them to ask for advice. They didn’t have a job but a multitude of opportunities. I went back to my school and asked my Head of Year, who said that completing the YSA would be as valuable as getting work experience, if not more!
What is your advice for students who are just starting and may be a little intimidated?
Costanza: Think small. Start with Bronze first, it is very rewarding to complete one stage first, before jumping onto the other. When you start, think of all the activities that you may have already recently completed; you will be surprised to find out that you very likely have already made a good start. For example, you may have done a class presentation or attended a school talk on a STEMM subject. That could count! Keep YSA at the back of your mind whenever you are around school, there are STEMM-related potential activities hidden everywhere: volunteering opportunities, extra classes and reading, presentations, competitions, clinics and field trips.
Nicolo: I have three pieces of advice: One, don’t be afraid to create your own opportunity within your school: for example, approach a teacher and offer your help in the lab; start a maths clinic for younger students who may need help; ask to run a STEMM club where you invite speakers; go to a science festival and then ask your teacher if you can make a presentation for your classmates; interview a STEMM teacher on their education path and write an article on the school website. Two, Use your summer wisely: summer courses, work experiences in labs or in the engineering sector. Three, don’t be afraid to pursue many different avenues as some may not materialise into anything, and you will not know straight away which ones will bring you valuable knowledge, hours to clock and for sure also fun and engagement with likeminded people.
So ok, it’s easy to kickstart with Bronze, but how do you get to Gold?
Nicolo: there will be a point where you may run out of steam, and you will have completed all the obvious activities, while still a long way off. Don’t be demoralised, you will just have to be a little more disciplined: I made a point of going into my portfolio every weekend, so I would get a reminder of what I still needed to work on. For example, to complete Developing your Skills and Knowledge strand, I booked for myself a few talks organised by Imperial University on Physics which were really interesting. Nowadays you can access many of those online.
Costanza: Yes, same with me. I had started an online STEMM homework forum to support students, especially geared towards girls. As I was needing more activities hours and more variety in my strands, I put together a presentation on famous women in science and asked local primary schools if I could speak during their assemblies. It was really fun and I quickly became a “STEMM mentor” to many girls in our local schools.
How did the YSA help you?
Nicolo: I was coding one afternoon and came across what I thought was an unknown sequence. I showed it to my Maths teacher who got really excited, but if it wasn’t for YSA, I would have probably left it to that. Instead, I realised that it was a great opportunity to cover quite a bit of ground with my YSA, so moved on to prove it and then sent it out to the Cambridge Mathematical Gazette, who published it and it is now included in the Online Encyclopaedia of Sequences (OEIS). So, I would say that YSA is a great way to stretch yourself.
What was your best moment of taking part?
Costanza: Attending the Prize Giving Ceremony in Norwich was an incredible moment, an auditorium filled with teenagers from everywhere in the UK, sharing an interest in STEMM.
Nicolo: When I finally beat my sister! Ok I did not beat her technically but at least matched her in achieving Gold!
As I end this interview, it downed on me that I would have to email my coordinator to ask to be moved from Silver to Gold….. Sibling pressure!