The first Science Festival in the Outer Hebrides, taking place between 18 and 20 March 2010, has received £5,000 funding from the Scottish Government's Office of the Chief Scientific Adviser. This grant was awarded through Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) to ESTEEM (Engineering, Science, Technology, Employability, Enterprise, Mathematics), a local organisation based in Stornoway who are organising the festival.
ESTEEM Chairman Andrew Mackenzie said:
“We are grateful for this funding that will enable us to launch the first ever Hebridean SciTech Festival that we hope will become a regular fixture on the local calendar. The festival aims to stimulate the interest of young people and their parents in science and technology and encourage pupils to study these subjects at school. There are tremendous opportunities within these work sectors.”
ESTEEM was founded in 2009 with the aim of raising the profile of Engineering, Science, Technology, Mathematics and Employability and Enterprise Education. The organisation believes that all these subjects are inextricably linked and young people need to be aware of the opportunities in the labour market and equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed within these sectors.
The Hebridean SciTech Festival, at the Bridge Centre, Stornoway, will help raise the profile of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects among the community and, in particular, young people with a fun and varied programme.
Planned activities include a visit from the Institute of Physics' Lab in a Lorry where students answer questions like, “why do sunsets appear red and skies blue?” and have a go at shattering a glass using sound waves. Dr Alison McClure, a meteorologist who has worked in the Antarctic, will talk about her experiences on this mysterious continent and students will have a chance to design and build a model research station for her and her colleagues. Budding engineers will be able to display their skills using “K'Nex” and all visitors will have the chance to take part in the Maths Challenge Trail and win prizes.
Parents and other members of the public will also be welcome to the evening talk by Dr Alison McClure on Thursday, a Ceilidh and Star Walk on Friday evening and on Saturday morning the whole family can go along and have a go at lots of fun experiments and activities. There will also be a chance to find out about careers and opportunities in STEM subjects.
A Hebridean Young Scientist Competition has been running for students since before Christmas and the best entries will be invited to take part in the Young Scientist Exhibition during the festival.
Many of the activities will be webcast to schools using GLOW technology. In future years, it is hoped to extend festival activities across the Western Isles.
The STEM North of Scotland Partnership (www.stemnorthofscotland.com) is a grouping of six local authorities, UHI Millennium Institute, the Open University, Skills Development Scotland and Highlands and Islands Enterprise which works to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The group's aim is to ensure young people know more about the importance of STEM subjects in the world around them, in particular energy, ICT, life sciences, finance and business, food and drink.
Highlands and Islands Enterprise STEM director Donna Chisholm commented:
“Festivals play a vital part in increasing public understanding of science and technology. Scientific and engineering advances are all around us, and our lives are rapidly influenced by technologicsl advancement. The Hebridean SciTech Festival will provide an opportunity to celebrate some great achievements and have some fun with science.”
HIE and the Office of the Chief Scientific Adviser in the Scottish Government are working together to encourage young people to continue their studies in STEM subject areas at school, college and university. Research by the Confederation of British Industry in 2009 revealed that 92% of UK employers across all sectors employ STEM-skilled people and therefore knowledge in these subject areas is extremely valuable in the jobs market. The general understanding of STEM issues across communities will also be essential in future years as the challenges presented by climate change and energy requirements increase.