Using MTa STEM with Students – A case study
There is a global shortage in STEM skills. As the tech industry has exploded, with its thirst for STEM savvy employees, demand for STEM skills has outpaced supply. To fill this shortage and attract further tech companies governments are competing to grow a pool of relevant talent.
Part of the UK Government’s solution is to use the military, who have a wealth of experience using STEM skills in a diverse range of situations. The military is taking that experience and using it to engage, educate and excite school students about STEM subjects.
We sat down with Chief Technician Chris Mossman to talk about how the military is engaging, educating and exciting students about STEM using the MTa STEM kit.
So Chris, why are the STEM engagements you carry out so important?
Hands on engineering experience is difficult to get hold of in some places. We provide that accessibility so that when choices about GCSE’s, A-Levels and Degree’s are made the students have an awareness of what’s out there and how fun it can be!
“I can honestly say that I’ve never run a session where the students didn’t have a great time.”
Sounds interesting, could you give us an idea of who you typically interact with?
Sure, we work across the age ranges. Everything from year 6 all the way through to 6th form. The activities have the flexibility and complexity to appeal to almost anyone. We also use the kits with adults, special needs students and occasionally teachers.
How have you used the MTa STEM kits?
We integrate them within our engagement days. We’ll start by using the MTa STEM kits to break the ice and get the teams interacting. We’ll then dive into a coding club before doing more MTa activities to finish. It offers a well-rounded STEM experience.
With activities such as the code club these are very technical and individual. The MTa STEM kits provide a great balance to that as they’re physical and require teamwork. The MTa STEM kits challenge the students to put their mechanical reasoning to be put into practice in a very different way.
Another way I’ve used them is in large groups. The kits are scalable so I’ve been able to have 44 students all doing the same activity. All I’ve needed is more kits and it’s why the STEM unit has 12!
On that note, why did you choose MTa STEM kits over other STEM activities?
There are 3 main reasons:
- They’re easy to understand. We’ve had problems in the past where we’ve had to spend hours training the team on how to use different activities. With the MTa STEM kit all I need to do is give them a facilitator guide and have them observe a session. The facilitator guides are so comprehensive and easy to understand anyone can use them and get results.
- They don’t break. I’ve had the same kit for 7 years and aside from losing a few pieces it’s in the same condition then as it is now. It’s that easy.
- The kids love them. I can honestly say that I’ve never run a session where the students didn’t have a great time. Every single session is positive using the MTa STEM kit. It’s universally liked and with a clear brief anyone can be engaged with it.
Taking a different approach, are there any challenges when using the MTa STEM kit?
When working with other instructors it’s hard to explain how all the MTa activities work. You end up talking about big bits of plastic and process which is a bit fluffy. That changes when you experience the kits in action. You see the value the MTa STEM kit delivers instantly.
Speaking of, what’s your favourite activity to run?
I love running Spinning Your Web. The different ways in which people problem solve is brilliant and you see the team dynamics at work. What made me really laugh is that we had all these engineers who were very bright. Their idea was very clever but it was ridiculously complicated. Compare that to a group of GCSE level girls who had such a simple solution that they finished the activity before everyone else. Both groups learnt very different things. The engineers to focus on the actual outcome and the girls about effective teamwork and planning.
What feedback have you received about the kits?
It’s not only the students that like them. The instructors and teachers love it too as the MTa STEM kits offer a broad range of activities to develop key skills.
Head teachers ask for us specifically as our sessions are so interactive and educational. The secret behind that is the combination of code club and MTa STEM kits. The different styles of learning work well to provide a holistic experience for students. It’s why MOD Kineton (Kineton STEM) is responsible for 19% of STEM engagements across the whole of defence. We have more demand than we could ever realistically meet.
It is this demand which has prompted us to start building a STEM classroom. A place where students can come and develop these skills.
“I’ve had the same kit for 7 years and aside from losing a few pieces it’s in the same condition then as it is now.”
If a facilitator or instructor was thinking about buying the MTa STEM kit what would you say?
This should be the first piece of STEM material you should buy. It’s versatile, it lasts and it’s cost effective. Combine it with a few laptops and a pneumatic rocket launcher and you’re all set to deliver STEM.
The kits can be used to do more than just the activities. We’ve used the components to build a race track for robots, a buggy for the rocket launcher, even a target.
Thank you Chris, here at MTa we are always amazed by how creative and innovative our customers are!