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Scottish Schoolgirls Driving STEM Awareness

Ross Kelly


F1 in Schools Challenge

Two all female teams from West Lothian schools are heading to Singapore for the world finals of the F1 in Schools Challenge in September after winning at Silverstone.

Girls from two Scottish schools will be travelling to Singapore in September to take part in the world finals of the F1 in Schools Challenge.

The F1 in Schools Challenge offers young people a chance to design, build and test model F1 cars and pit themselves against other innovative teams from across Scotland and the UK. The initiative is supported by the F1 community and is the largest STEM-based school program in the world, working in 44 countries and offering over 40 million students opportunities to pursue careers in science-based subjects.

Last month, Digit reported on the Velocity team, comprised of students from Inveralmond High School in Livingston and the reward at stake for winning national challenges – a glamorous trip to Singapore for the world finals.

The all-girl team from Inveralmond High School confirmed their place, and have also been joined by students from Linlithgow Academy’s AcceleRace team.

Reaching the Finish Line

Earlier this year, 42 teams from across the UK took part in the national finals of the challenge at Silverstone. As part of the process, teams were judged on a number of categories; engineering, pit display, verbal presentations and also the speed of the car over a 20m distance.

The Accelerace team won the award for fastest car in the Development Class after it flew across the 20m track in a whopping 1.316 seconds, beating its nearest rival by 0.035 seconds. The S3 pupils Louise Paterson, Aoife Sutton, Isla Petrie, Molly Ganner and Louise Murray were praised by judges for the design of their car.

This is a fantastic achievement by Team AcceleRace, and it is even more impressive considering this was the first year they entered the competition. After qualifying from the Scottish final to the national finals at Silverstone, they’ve earned that dream trip to Singapore and will go up against teams from around the world – A great opportunity for Scottish youngsters to showcase their talents.

Joining them in Singapore will be S3-4 Inveralmond students Chloe Adam, Beth Lewis, Amy Shaw, Nicole Mulrainey, Megan Cleaver and Katie Saunders, who were named Scottish champions in the Professional Class, while also reaching the quarter-finals of the knockout racing

The Inveralmond team also won the award for best pit display, and were praised by judges for their professional attitude.

STEM Engagement

STEM education is a key part of the Scottish Government’s Curriculum of Excellence, and efforts to encourage young people to engage in these subjects have increased in recent years, specifically targeting young female students; an area in which there still remains a significant deficit.

The number of passes by girls in STEM subjects rose from 2007 to 2016, however the Scottish Government accepts there is still room for improvement on the issue and that gender stereotypes have to be broken down to boost interest in subjects such as maths, engineering, chemistry and physics. As such, Education Scotland and Skills Development Scotland invested over £110,000 between 2016 and 2017 in the Institute of Physics’ Improving Gender Balance Project.

Two teams comprised completely of schoolgirls is absolutely a positive step for promoting STEM subjects to young women. Andrew Norris, European Regional Leader of the team sponsor, Inoapps, spoke of the importance of competitions such as the F1 in Schools Challenge to students, as it will help “support them in building the skills required in their future working lives.”

He added: “We’re even more pleased that in 2018, the Year of the Woman, Linlithgow Academy is entering an all-female team in the competition.” and that it could be a positive step toward encouraging young women to pursue careers in STEM subjects, stating: ” If this programme encourages any of the girls to embark on a career in engineering or technology, it can only be a great thing.”

Working Hand in Hand

Kraig Brown, the Partnership and Development Manager at Digital Xtra Fund has worked to closely with Inveralmond High School and believes that two all-girls teams reaching the Singapore finals is a great opportunity to inspire school kids – both boys and girls – across Scotland the the UK to engage in STEM subjects, stating:

“Two all-girl teams from West Lothian qualifying for the world finals is a massive opportunity to demonstrate that you don’t have to be a boy or come from a major metropolitan area to succeed.

“We need to build on the momentum created by Velocity Racing and Team AcceleRace to inspire more girls and young women in Scotland to choose STEM in secondary school.”

Kraig added that this is a fantastic opportunity to raise awareness of the gender deficits that affect the technology and science sectors; by highlighting role models within the industry, we can have a positive, inspiring effect on the next generation of entrepreneurs and industry leaders.

“It is very important that we continually highlight positive female role models from the digital technologies and other STEM sectors to help inspire more girls and young women to consider a career in STEM, whether it is professionals further along their career path or fellow students who have tasted success.

“This alone could help redress the current gender deficit in digital tech and STEM overall.”

Addressing the issue of gender in STEM subjects will require many industries and organisations working together. The issue cannot be addressed solely by say, the Scottish Government. It is crucial that figures in business, in education and in politics all play a part. In addition to this, community endeavour and committed, passionate educators are key to increasing engagement in science-based subjects.

“This success was due to dedicated teachers and parents going above and beyond and we need to do more to support them.” said Kraig

Kraig believes that funding of extra-curricular activities from business can also help in increasing engagement by giving schools and teachers the tools to go the extra mile for students, saying:

“Digital Xtra Fund was created to fund inspiring and engaging extracurricular activities in computing science outwith the core curriculum.

“This is not to supplant teachers, but to connect them with activity providers and digital professionals who have relevant knowledge, experience, and equipment.”


Ross Kelly

Staff Writer

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