“But how, Dad?” When my children were small, this was a question they were constantly asking – coupled with the infamous “why?” Drawing parallels and unleashing creativity are key components of childhood and adolescence; a time when children are actively problem solving, exploring new possibilities and pushing the boundaries. This method of learning, critical thinking and re-imagining the world should continue throughout our lives. After all, aren’t these the pillars that drive the tech industry forward? This is exactly what we are trying to encourage with Ericsson’s ‘STEAM in the UK’ program. STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics. Unlike the more traditional STEM subjects, STEAM also incorporates art, recognising the need for creative thinking and visual skills. At Ericsson, these areas are not only our profession but our passion – so let’s open the eyes of the next generation to STEAM’s unparalleled opportunities.
A time for change
Technology is rapidly changing the world around us and providing opportunities we previously thought impossible; from allowing patients to be remotely diagnosed in emergency situations to cutting carbon emissions at the world’s busiest shipping ports. However, many young people have never thought about how they can get involved – either in their studies or future careers. Whilst I have always had a passion for science and mathematics, I know that my friends at school would have been more inspired to learn if they had seen how those numbers and abstract concepts could be applied to the real world. This is where STEAM in the UK comes in.
What is ‘STEAM in the UK’?
Ericsson’s STEAM in the UK program is designed to encourage young people of all ages and backgrounds, especially girls, to study and enter a career in STEAM. It’s no secret that girls and women are vastly underrepresented in this space. Here’s a not-so-fun-fact: according to a 2017 study, girls usually become interested in traditional STEM subjects at the age of 11 but lose interest again by the age of 15. To meet this challenge head-on, STEAM in the UK is holding a competition in schools, with 5G playing a major role. This 5G competition will take place in schools around the Reading area and is designed to explore this cutting-edge technology in the classroom. This ‘real world’ teaching method encourages students to use creative thinking and collaboration to imagine themselves as future tech creators – and hopefully inspire them to study STEAM further.
5G: where magic happens
As part of STEAM in the UK’s competition, Ericsson employees will visit multiple secondary schools in the Reading area to issue them with a challenge: how can we use 5G to change the world we live in? Students are asked to think of a problem in society and fix it with 5G – thereby exploring the real-world applications of technology. The ‘magic’ thread running through the challenge is the premise of “What if?” “What if I could combine my interest in technology and fashion?” “What if I could use technology to improve the world around me?” “What if…”
On April 20, I was part of the Ericsson team that visited Reading Girls School, where we were met by over one hundred year 8 students. My favorite part of this visit, and working with young people in general, is seeing the transformation that comes over the students when they fully grasp the possibilities created by new technologies. It is somewhat cliched to say, but their eyes really lit up when I presented the practical, real-world applications of 5G. This resulted in a rapid brainstorming session, with the various teams coming up with extremely varied responses to our 5G challenge. Solutions proposed by the girls included:
- Using 5G probes, robots and other applications to find out how climate change is affecting specific areas of our environment, for example the depths of our oceans, and if our response is substantial
- Using 5G collaboration; using virtual reality (VR) meeting spaces and holograms of ourselves to ensure that individuals can collaborate remotely and seamlessly
- Using 5G to program a wardrobe to select the correct clothing for you depending on the occasion you input into it, for example a job interview
The winning concept explored how we can we use immersive experiences powered by 5G to prepare for space travel. The team members were passionate about space and the solar system and proposed using AI and 5G to create a controlled environment or virtual world where you could explore (through touch, sight, sound) the moon and other planets. They also proposed using the same technology to prepare for other out-of-the-ordinary adventures, such as the jungle or the arctic. Such innovative thinking in such a short space of time!
“I enjoyed getting such an amazing opportunity to have a session all about 5G and its conveniences in future (especially during the current pandemic). It was exciting getting to know at what level the world will be in technology in just a few years’ time.”
– Stefna, member of the winning team
Once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, the winning team will be paying a visit to Ericsson’s Reading office to see demonstrations of 5G in action. They will also act as mentors for their school in the same competition next year by helping to judge ideas, and inspire a new group of young people to study STEAM.
This competition is designed to help students see the links between technology and other areas they are passionate about – from outer space to art. One of the highlights from this event was seeing the students ‘joining the dots together’. Notably, one girl realised that combining mathematics, science and applied art subjects in her GCSEs could benefit her art-making process – essentially helping her infuse technology into her traditional artmaking methods and make her artworks ‘come alive’. This is just one of the guiding aims of STEAM in the UK; to quell misconceptions about technology and show how different areas of study, including the creative arts, can be combined with more traditional ‘tech’ subjects.
“I really enjoyed learning about 5G and all its advantages, how it is useful and how we can use it in different ways. All of this was very active, and it also followed the school system REAL [Relevant Engaging Active Learning]. It will be interesting to see how quickly many more countries get such a great network. My favorite benefit is how 5G has enhanced security with hardened endpoints.”
– Stuti, member of the winning team
STEAM is critical to so many industries across the country, and I am proud that Ericsson is on a mission to encourage more girls and young people to study it further. Occasions like this make it real. Certainly, seeing the energy and creativity in such a diverse set of girls was incredibly rewarding, and I am delighted to be a part of Ericsson’s STEAM in the UK journey.
Challenge the status quo – and see what appears
To date, the Connect to Learn initiative has reached over 200,000 students worldwide across the program’s four pillar areas of women and girls in ICT, digital skills, digital connectivity for schools and education in humanitarian contexts.
Find out more about Ericsson’s “Connect to Learn”.