Inspiring Future Women in STEM: EDF Energy Pretty Curious X Star Wars

Inspiring Future Women in STEM: EDF Energy Pretty Curious X Star Wars

As a now Dr of biochemistry, it may surprise you to learn that my strongest subject at school was French. I could whip up essays on French literature with complete ease and I loved every lesson. I was (and still am) obsessed with French culture, fashion and music and like to watch French films and read French books in the hopes of not completely losing what came so naturally to me all those years ago. So why on earth didn’t I do French at university? That’s a question I asked myself during the more stressful days of my PhD and was one of the toughest decisions of my life.

Back then (10 years ago!) there were no visible role models for young women in science; there was no Instagram or Facebook communities for girls interested in science. I was one of the only girls in my chemistry class and the only person there who was not doing it to get onto a medicine degree. Biochemistry isn’t studied at school-age, only biology and chemistry separately, so taking the leap to devote 4 years of my life (in fact, 8!) to a subject that I didn’t really know anything about was a big gamble; I questioned myself many times, as did my French teachers, whilst my chemistry teacher tried to put me off, highlighting that science didn’t come naturally to me. A dreadful thing to say to a 17-year-old perhaps, but he was completely right, even now. I found science interesting, but I had to work damn hard at it. I’m happy to say, the hard work paid off!

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Nowadays, however, there are so many amazing resources for young girls making the same decisions, that I wish had been around 10 years ago. One such campaign is EDF Energy’s Pretty Curious campaign which is aiming to get young girls into science and to help them make important decision about their career direction.

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EDF have a dedicated Pretty Curious website (which incidentally is completely pink-free) that is full of resources for both parents and teens to help them decide which careers may be suited to them.

There are quizzes and avatar builders to help girls learn which careers might suit their strengths and a 360 degree film to show what it is like to be a woman in science on the job. Here’s me making my own bioscientist avatar and trying out my very own Pretty Curious Google Cardboard to view the film. This was my first time using Google Cardboard and makes me wish I knew more about computer science and technology!

The film takes you through the career paths of women from all areas of science, technology, engineering and maths and allows you to pan round as the video is playing to really get a feel for what each different job is like (don’t worry if you don’t have a Google Cardboard headset, the video on the website works really well and still allows you to view 360 degrees throughout!). I was really impressed by the film and I would definitely recommend watching to any young people who want to hear first-hand testimonials about scientific jobs from young women they can relate to.

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The Pretty Curious campaign has also teamed up with Star Wars to champion strong female role models in the biggest film of the year.

I was lucky enough to be sent this littleBits Droid Inventor kit to build my own R2D2; he’s been my favourite character since childhood so this was an actual dream come true! I had to download an app to my phone which took me though building my own droid right from the circuit to assembling the body and motor. R2D2 is controlled from my phone and by taking him apart and putting the circuits back together in different configurations, he has the ability to self-navigate around an obstacle course. LittleBits are also running a competition to find the most inventive uses for the self-driving droid to encourage youngsters to get creative with their science, just like Rey in the films.

It’s a seriously cool piece of kit – I would have loved one of these when I was younger (who am I kidding, I love these NOW!) and is great for just getting stuck into electronics and engineering in a really accessible way. The circuit components of the droid are magnetic and clip together easily, so it’s really difficult to go wrong, making the kit suitable for inspiring kids (and grown-ups!) of all ages.

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EDF have been running a number of Pretty Curious Studio events, which are giving girls the chance to have a go of building the R2D2 droid themselves, whilst exploring STEM career opportunities (I would have LOVED this!); the website also features biographies of some truly inspirational women in STEM rocking it in their careers, so that girls can find out more about the huge range of STEM jobs out there!

As I mentioned, in school writing came easy to me and I’ve always enjoyed doing it (hence I started my own blog!), but it was only during my PhD that I realised I could have a job where I could write about science and combine the things I love most; it would definitely have been useful to have had exposure to the range of STEM jobs out there when I was making these important decisions in school.

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If you fancy having a go of being a droid inventor yourself at home, you can be in with the chance of winning your own R2D2 by taking the STEM career quiz which can help suggest jobs for you based on your interests (I got biotechnologist, so it’s pretty accurate!).

Whether you’re a high school student, a parent, a teacher, or a STEM ambassador, there are so many useful resources for you to use as part of EDF’s Pretty Curious campaign, so go check it out and let me know what you think!

What resources were out there when you were deciding on your future? Or have you tried any of the littleBits kits? Let me know in the comments!