70 per cent of parents aren’t aware of Stem, survey finds

Engineers Week poll shows that despite efforts most don’t know what Stem stands for

There has been a national effort over years to attract students and their parents to science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) subjects, yet 70 per cent of parents still don't know what Stem stands for, according to a survey released as part of Engineers Week.

The week includes about 500 events in 28 counties, with an estimated 37,000 young people and adults taking part with the help of 1,700 engineer volunteers, said Damien Owens of the representative body Engineers Ireland.

There are a wide range of events including talks, student activities and displays, Mr Owens said. “This is the 9th annual Engineers Week and its purpose is to encourage more students and their parents to see the value of a career in engineering.”

The survey suggests these ideas are slow to sink in, given the majority of parents don’t know what Stem subjects are. It showed that a quarter of adults surveyed think an engineer is someone who fixes a car and 20 per cent of them believe engineering is a job for men but not for women.


Break down preconceptions

Engineers Ireland has a permanent ongoing programme called Steps, which is a science, technology and engineering programme for schools, with the goal of breaking down preconceptions.

The programme also tries to explain what skills are needed to pursue engineering. “It is all about creativity and not all about maths. This is one of the preconceptions out there,” he said.

“You do need an aptitude for maths, but having good communications skills [is] just as important as maths.”

The Steps programme reaches both secondary and primary level students, and this is reflected by the events available during the week. There are Lego challenge workshops taking place around the country as well as “Who wants to be a superhero” events, where students are encouraged to translate superhero powers such as flying into engineering solutions.

All events are free of charge, with costs being absorbed by the Steps programme and the Science Foundation Ireland Discovery Programme.

Engineers Week runs until Saturday, February 14th.

Dick Ahlstrom

Dick Ahlstrom

Dick Ahlstrom, a contributor to The Irish Times, is the newspaper's former Science Editor.