On Monday I took part in a STEM Careers event for Year 9 pupils (13-14 year olds) held at the City and Islington Sixth Form College. I was a Speed Networker, along with Ambassadors from other STEM fields. The format entails having the Ambassadors sit at separate tables and the pupils get to spend 5 minutes at each one before moving onto another table.
It was suggested that I bring a prop with me from my job, so I grabbed a laptop. Now this is the second time I've done an event like this and I learned the hard way that showing a screen of code to young people does not impress them, rather it frightens them. They find the code impenetrable, they assume it's complex and don't even look at it. I did have some success showing HTML to students and saw the lights go on when they discovered it was easily understandable.
Almost all of the pupils had no knowledge of what a Software Developer does, or even what the role is. I tried to get across the feeling of creativity and exploration that comes with being able to develop software whilst also emphasising the need for teamwork inherent in the role. In the space of 5 minutes it was impossible, but I hope that my enthusiasm came across and that alone will inspire them to look into it as a choice.
It was an interesting day, and very tiring, but I feel that we made a difference in giving the pupils a chance to meet real people in different STEM roles and expand their knowledge of the opportunities out there.