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Carol Vorderman launches new Centre to revolutionise STEM experience at College
Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths

Carol Vorderman launches new Centre to revolutionise STEM experience at College

24 October 2013

Carol Vorderman MBE officially opened Barking & Dagenham College's new Gazelle Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) Centre - the only space of its kind in London and one of only two in the whole of England.

The new Centre is a state-of-the-art, purpose built creative space, which can cater for 30 students at any one time. It will revolutionise the teaching and learning of STEM subjects in which the UK has an acknowledged skills shortage. The Centre will run a series of activity days for both College students and local schools, including one inspired by the popular TV drama ‘CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,’ to directly engage students in applying STEM skills in practical situations.

CSI in the classroom

The CSI activity day involves taking fingerprints from a glass, carrying out experiments to look at blood patterns and using high-tech computer equipment to produce e-fits of suspects. Whilst these sorts of activities are fun to take part in, students are also learning essential STEM skills in the process and finding out about the wide range of careers and job opportunities STEM skills relate to.

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From left to right: Barking & Dagenham College student Luke Endacott, 19, from Romford, Carol Vorderman MBE, Barking & Dagenham College Principal and CEO Cathy Walsh, John Biggs, Assembly Member for City and East London, and Barking & Dagenham College student Grace Thomas, 18, from Dagenham. The group were taking part in an experiment to look at blood patterns as part of the crime scene analysis activities that the Gazelle STEM Centre will run.

Carol Vorderman, MBE, who is famed for her mathematics abilities, and who also holds a degree in Engineering from the University of Cambridge, was delighted to open the centre. Carol commented:

“I am an example of how careers in subjects such as mathematics, science and engineering aren’t always what you would expect. There are so many different career opportunities out there linked to STEM subjects and it’s really important that we encourage young people into these areas and show them all there is to offer. A degree in a STEM subject opens doors around the world. It was a pleasure to see Barking & Dagenham College’s new Gazelle STEM Centre today, it is a fantastic way to inspire young people and get them excited about the subjects. I wish there had been something like this available when I was in education!”

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A survey from the CBI and Pearson in June highlighted a severe skills gap in the STEM subjects - with 39% of employers surveyed struggling to recruit young employees with the commensurate advanced STEM skills.

As Barking & Dagenham College Principal and CEO, Cathy Walsh explains:

“This is an exciting time for our area of East London, and its role in the development of the STEM economy, especially with the plans for the development of the Sanofi-Aventis site and its potential for attracting more STEM industries, and consequently more STEM jobs, to our area. The Mayor of London is prioritising the development of more STEM-related careers for our capital, which means our young people need the right skills and expertise so they can benefit from these new work opportunities. It’s why Barking & Dagenham College has built the only Gazelle STEM Centre within the M25.”

Cathy Walsh added:

“Barking & Dagenham College is proud to be joint first college in the country to launch a Gazelle STEM Centre. Our vision is to inspire new generations into STEM subjects and ensure they are work-ready for tomorrow’s job market.”

“As well as our own students using the Centre, local schools will too. We will work with them to show children and young people how exciting, fun and innovative STEM subjects are. I know there are future generations of budding engineers, mathematicians and scientists in our community and Barking & Dagenham College’s Gazelle STEM Centre is the key to unlocking their potential.”

Other guests at the launch of the College’s Gazelle STEM Centre at Barking & Dagenham College, included the Mayor of Barking and Dagenham, Councillor Hardial Singh Rai, David Wilson, Deputy Director, Science & Innovation Evidence Project, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and John Biggs, General Assembly Member for City and East London.

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Pictured: Mayor of Barking and Dagenham, Councillor Hardial Singh Rai

North Hertfordshire College Gazelle STEM Centre

On the same day, 24 October, North Hertfordshire College also unveiled their STEM Centre, alongside special guest space scientist Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE .

Signe Sutherland, principal and CEO of North Hertfordshire College, comments:

“We are delighted to be opening one of the inaugural Gazelle STEM Centres at North Hertfordshire College, creating new interactive learning opportunities for our learners in these vitally important subjects, and those of students at schools and colleges across the local community.”

“As the lead director for Gazelle on STEM Centres I believe it will build on the curriculum innovation and success of studio schools, and the focus on teamwork and project-based learning they have encouraged. The STEM Centre is a significant addition to our entrepreneurial credentials as a Gazelle College.”

Gazelle Colleges Group

Both Barking & Dagenham College and North Hertfordshire College are members of the Gazelle Colleges Group, whose 20-strong federation of colleges are committed to curriculum innovation and creating entrepreneurial learning opportunities for their students.

The two STEM centres, based on a model pioneered by Gazelle Colleges Group member South West College in Northern Ireland, mark an initial £1.2m investment on the part of Gazelle and both colleges in STEM curriculum innovation, to change student perceptions of the subjects and highlight the career value and entrepreneurial potential they offer.

The launch marks the beginning of Gazelle’s planned long-term investment in STEM, which will ultimately see more STEM centres and curricula introduced across the group in the coming year.

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