June 22, 2022

Adventures in STEM

Last year, we participated in a STEM event at the Science Museum in London, England.
Avatar Stephen TODD
STEM Skills Fair Group

Late last year, our EURONORTH STEM group received a request to participate in an event at the Science Museum in London. Our STEM group is a set of enthusiastic volunteers who organize and play a part in events promoting Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) to students of all ages. I wanted to participate in STEM events in the past but the timing was never right. So, when this event came up, I volunteered right away.

Now, you may be asking why Dassault Systèmes runs a STEM group when school students are not our target market (in fact, someone did ask me this at the event)! The answer? Many, if not most, of our customers are scientists, engineers and programmers with STEM backgrounds. One of our core purposes is around combining art, science, technology for a more sustainable world. We must encourage the future workforce to learn STEM skills and subjects if we are to achieve this purpose

Ice Crystal Computer-aided Design Model

Back to the Science Museum event, this was a STEM Skills Fair and was all about making our expertise in our jobs relatable to everyday skills. First, we had a thought-provoking training day at the Science Museum where the organizer asked us what we had planned for our day with the students. She had some concerns, quite rightly, that we might get so involved in the fun activities we would not get into our skill building.

This comment stayed with me, and I spent some time thinking about how to make what I do at work more relatable. I am in the Strategy team at BIOVIA Dassault Systèmes, and part of my job entails working on partnerships and acquisitions. I came up with an everyday example about buying a new phone. For more information on this example, see my LinkedIn post. I was happy that I could connect this activity to acquiring a company in a way that students would understand.

Problem Solving

On the event day, we had two activities on our table to help start conversations with the students. The first of these was a fantastic 3D Living Heart model that the students could interact with under the supervision of my colleagues. The second activity involved 3D-printed ice crystal models that students could build as part of an “ice crystal challenge”. Thanks to my colleagues, Paul and Peter, we had three models—one completely dismantled, one whole, and the other where we kept some of the water molecules bonded together. We also had a video showing the science behind ice crystals and how we made the model. This resulted from a project I had worked on with my daughter a few years earlier, but we had never let other people loose on it, so it was a bit of a trial-by-fire risk!

During our day at the museum, we had lots of students stop by and try out the “ice crystal challenge”, most of them completing the partially bonded one quickly. This was great, but then I realized I had very little time left to tell my carefully thought-out “phone buying” story! So, as soon as the students had solved the ice crystal challenge, I told them they had used skills I use in my STEM job: problem solving (in 3D), teamwork and communication.

Teamwork and Communication

There were many great moments throughout the day. However, one student sticks in my mind. This student solved the partially bonded ice crystal challenge uniquely and returned later with a friend. After 10 minutes of concentrated and patient teamwork, they solved the completely dismantled model!

Thanks to the whole Dassault Systèmes team for organizing, printing, and taking part. I was just the ice-crystal model person! Without our problem-solving, teamwork and communication skills, we would never have made the day such a great experience for everyone!

In the end, I hope that we inspired a few students to take up STEM subjects, as much as they inspired me with their enthusiasm.

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