Downe House Innovative STEM Shorts Event – Inspired and Inspiring!
A group of Upper Sixth STEM students treated their fellow sixth formers, Scholars from across the school and members of the STEM subjects’ staff to an inspiring evening of short talks.
The event was the culmination of many weeks researching and preparations for the eight students,
all studying STEM subjects at A Level. The super-curricular STEM Shorts initiative, organised by our
Head of STEM, Mr Charlie Littledale, is based on the successful format of TED Talks. The students
were challenged to research, prepare and deliver a 5-minute talk that would be accessible to anyone
on topics of personal interest – linked to the theme of “Modern-day problems that can be solved
through inspiration from nature.”
The audience was treated to a diverse range of talks across the STEM disciplines on such topics as
CRISPR-Cas9, polyculture, the future of analgesics, the science of superpowers, using fractals to
enhance CGI and much more.
We were also delighted to be joined at this inaugural STEM Shorts event Dr Richard James
MacCowan, who gave a fascinating talk on ‘Biomimicry and how nature can provide a wealth of
solutions for the modern world’. Richard is an internationally renowned speaker on biomimicry,
innovation and sustainability from cosmetics through to superyacht design, and he stayed to hear
the pupil’s presentations.
The evening was a resounding success, and all credit must go to our student presenters who found
marvellous ways of simplifying complex ideas and technologies so that they were accessible for all.
Katie, who presented on ‘analgesic drugs’, said: “I really enjoyed the event and the journey to it was
a fantastic opportunity for me, as I was able to research into a field I had previously scarce
knowledge about. My chosen subject was painkillers, more specifically the mechanism of morphine.
I learnt a lot in the process, including being selective about the infinite resources on the internet,
and simplifying complex information to an understandable degree.
There was such a large variety of topics, from fractal dimensions to superpowers and polyculture
farming, the event was exceptionally interesting and definitely inspiring for the audience about the
different applications to advance scientific research.”
Clara, whose STEM Short explored the possibility of using ‘Quercitin on periodontitis’, also found the
process of great value; “This event was a great opportunity to research further a topic that I was
particularly interested in from a different angle and to look for new perspectives on trying to find
solutions for it. It was also a great way to improve my public speaking and communication skills, and
I really enjoyed hearing from academic fields that I would normally not encounter.”
Mr Charlie Littledale, Head of STEM, explained the rationale behind the initiative. “My aim for the
STEM Shorts initiative is that those students involved not only enjoy delving much deeper into areas
of interest to them personally, but also benefit hugely from the process. The skills they have
developed of researching, condensing and simplifying information, as well as presenting under the
pressure of a live audience, will stand them in good stead for the rigors of University interview
processes, and the world of work in the future, where speaking confidently will be essential.
Furthermore, my aim is always to inspire our students to want to become further engaged with
STEM – and from what those in the audience tell me, we certainly achieved this aim. I hope to see
many of them presenting their own STEM Shorts in years to come.”