Day in the Life: STEM Events Coordinator
Published: 22 Aug 2014
Lesley Weston, 34, explains what a day in the life is like for a Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) events co-ordinator for TechFest-SetPoint
TechFest in September is our science festival but we deliver a year-round programme of public and school events. When I have a day in the office, I’ll be up by about 7.30am. I listen to the radio on the way in to catch up on local news and have a really short commute to the office through the countryside. I’m quite a morning person so really enjoy the summer mornings when it’s light. I’ll usually get into the office about 9am.
The first part of my day is usually spent checking e-mails. One of the contracts we hold is as regional co-ordinators for the British Science Association Crest Awards. It gives young people aged between 11 and 19 the opportunity to gain national accreditation for Stem project work.
We encourage them to develop the skills involved in research, experimental design, analysis and presentation. We work with schools, teachers and parents, further education, industry professionals who mentor students, local authorities and other education providers to encourage young people with opportunities to gain additional accreditation for wider achievement. I’ll deal with inquiries and work with partner organisations and arrange support and assessment for students.
On a day when we have school events or I’m delivering workshops, I’ll usually leave the house by about 7.15am to travel and get set up. I absolutely love the science communication parts of my job. In a day, I can go from making toothpaste with P7 to engineering dinosaurs with nursery children.
We are really lucky to work with industry professionals in developing and delivering projects and it’s great to be able to have them in school to share their enthusiasm and knowledge. I was in a primary school with an engineer on Monday for Engineer‘n’ Our Lives and he wasn’t allowed to leave until he signed autographs.Assessing Crest projects is a highlight in my calendar. It can mean getting up and on the train to locations across Scotland before sunrise but it gives me a good chance to review projects and prepare questions for students. At the silver and gold levels, we see students undertaking projects of 30-50 hours, then 70-plus hours, so I often have a lot of research to do myself before undertaking and completing the assessments.
I am continually impressed at students’ innovative, creative and novel ideas and how confidently and articulately they communicate them. Assessment days are intense and often involve a working lunch but usually finish quite early so students can return to school and I can get follow-up work done on the train.
The TechFest team will tend to get together at lunchtime so it’s a really useful time to catch up with the news and hear about what people are working on. If I’m in school, then I’ll either take a packed lunch or have a school dinner. It’s useful to hear from teachers about what’s happening in education and where they would like to see more subject development or resources, so it’s very helpful to have that kind of information and feedback.
Afternoons are a great time for workshop preparation and development. I do research before I start writing a workshop and make sure I’m making curricular links and try to come up with as many hands-on opportunities for participants as possible. While I am a scientist, workshop development gives me a real creative outlet.Over the summer, I’ll be preparing workshops for the schools at TechFest in September and developing new material.
Our most interesting time of year for events is the public programme for TechFest in September, with events on throughout the day and the evenings. It’s such a diverse programme, there’s something for everyone. I love it when people discover the exciting and entertaining events that look at science in a way you just wouldn’t expect. There is such a big build-up to TechFest in September in the office, it’s like the run-up to Christmas with all the preparation but it is the most wonderful atmosphere: there is just so much energy and enthusiasm from presenters and audiences and topics cover wide-ranging interests.Outwith the festival afternoons, I’ll finish work around 4.30pm and usually be at the stables by 5pm. My horse is too young to ride but we still have a lot of fun going out for walks and with her training.