Lent Term STEM highlights

18 March 2024

This Lent Term has been as busy as ever for our STEM department at Downe. With a Symposium with Radley College, the second edition of Pioneer being released, Biology & Chemistry Olympiads and a STEMsoc talk by special guest, Doctor Claire Higgins. Our girls have embraced these opportunities to enrich their knowledge and enjoy the fantastically varied world of STEM!

Mr Littledale (Head of STEM) shares his overview of the Lent Term below.

Last month we were delighted to be joined by Dr. Claire Higgins, from Imperial College London’s Department of Bioengineering, for our STEM society at Downe House School. Dr. Higgins delivered a presentation on her journey through science, from studying as a secondary student to where she is today, punctuating this story with her most prominent research as well as her most cautionary tales to the students delight.

The presentation was a fantastic mixture of do’s and do not’s in the pursuit of a career in science, as well as a captivating lesson in hair follicles and regeneration of injured tissue – both elements were incredibly positively received by our students. This experience for them was invaluable in terms of seeing what a STEM research career might look like, the resilience required, but also the amazing opportunities it can open up.

March saw the second iteration of the STEM symposium between Downe House School and Radley College. The aims of the event are to extend budding STEM-ists beyond the classroom curriculum and to promote collaborative working.

Participating in the STEM symposium was an enriching experience that offered a blend of collaborative problem-solving and hands-on experiments. Working with my team to tackle math problems centred around prime numbers sparked engaging discussions and encouraged us to explore various strategies to arrive at solutions.

The hands-on inorganic chemical tests provided a tangible application of the theory we have learnt in class, which was very satisfying. One of the most valuable takeaways from the symposium was the importance of effective communication. Being able to explain concepts clearly and succinctly to my peers not only facilitated collaboration within my team but also prepared me with a crucial skill for interviews and future endeavours in life after school.

– Rebecca, Lower Sixth (Year 12)

Students, in small groups, were set four challenges across the STEM fields to complete such as working out the best natural remedy for scurvy, finding patterns in prime numbers and decoding encrypted messages.

Students found the new areas of STEM inspiring and allowed them a peek as to what further studies in each field beyond secondary education might look like. They, and we, look forward to next year’s event greatly!

I have thoroughly enjoyed participating in the STEM symposium. However, I found the most exciting aspect to be encountering unfamiliar and challenging problems and working with my team to develop solutions. This experience has tested my critical thinking and problem-solving abilities, and by collaborating with others, I have improved my communication skills when it comes to presenting my ideas effectively. I believe these skills will be invaluable in the future, particularly during university interviews.

– Janice, Lower Sixth (Year 12)

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