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Bracknell and Crowthorne Guides and Rangers get hands-on with STEM at Bracknell BID-member 3M

Over forty Guides and Rangers from units across Bracknell and Crowthorne, visited science-based technology company and Bracknell BID-member 3M, to learn how STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) skills can lead to exciting future careers.

The Guides and Rangers, aged 10 to 18-years-old, accompanied by their adult volunteer leaders, took part in a full day of hands-on activities at the Bracknell-based company’s Customer Innovation Centre, where they engaged with scientists and technologists, who helped illuminate the importance and relevance of STEM to today’s fast-paced world.

The visit was organised by Lizzie Hall, Assistant division commissioner for ‘Exceptional Experiences for Girls’ within Girlguiding South-East Division, Royal Berkshire, who said, “We identified that many of our units are good at offering soft skills like crafts but were less so at STEM topics. Recognising that STEM can be daunting for our volunteer leaders if they don’t have prior knowledge, we wanted to incorporate these experiences as a priority into our division strategy.

“3M was an obvious choice as it’s on our doorstep and is well known for its incredible range of science-based innovations. We wanted to show our young members how broad the subject area is, introduce them to inspirational role models and encourage them to stick with STEM subjects at school and beyond, to help address the gender gap that persists,” she added.

Andy Fish, 3M Technical Service Specialist for Traffic Safety Systems, lined up a wide range of activities including ‘Spooky Slime’, which used cornflour and water mixed to create oobleck, a non-Newtonian fluid whose viscosity can change when under pressure to become more liquid or more solid. The mixture was placed on top of an audio speaker and, according to the frequency of sound waves applied, appeared to dance to the delight of the audience.

To illustrate how binary digits can be grouped together in bytes and used to send data between computers, the girls used two colours of beads to represent binary data and created a keyring based on their initial.

They also toured the company’s analytical laboratories, where scientists demonstrated a wide range of instrumentation, including high-magnification microscopy, and the effect of liquid nitrogen on a range of household items.

Sarah Chapman, 3M North Europe Region STEM Champion gave a keynote talk to the Guides and Rangers, and asked them to think about whether their perception of a scientist had changed from prior to the visit. She explained that too often, girls are discouraged from STEM because of the stereotypes that exist, and that the range of people they had met at 3M illustrated that STEM is for everybody, regardless of background.

Sarah also encouraged the Guides and Rangers to think of their favourite thing and then find out about the science, technology and STEM jobs behind it, using the example of horses leading to possible careers in equine physiotherapy, veterinary nursing, becoming a farrier or designing show-jumping courses. She stressed that all technical jobs need curiosity, creativity, collaboration and communication.

To celebrate the visit, the Girlguiding South-East Division team created a special ‘Women in STEM’ badge for the Guides and Rangers and their volunteer leaders who took part. “We hope today is just the beginning,” said Lizzie, “and that our trip to 3M will inspire our young members to go on and complete some of their interest badges at home such as ‘Investigating’ for Guides and ‘Digital Design’ for Rangers.”

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