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"STEM isn't just a set of subjects for the classroom – it shapes many aspects of our lives"

Mhairi McCann, founder and CEO of Youth STEM 2030, and a member of Children in Scotland's Changing our World advisory group, shares her views on the importance of young people in STEM in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals

STEM, or Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, is sometimes seen as nothing more than a set of subjects for the classroom. And yet, it shapes so many aspects of our lives. The buildings in our cities, the forces that keep our feet on the ground, the medicines that help us, and the screen that you’re reading this article on!

At a time when we face such big global challenges, such as those outlined in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), I believe that STEM is more important than ever. And with the right opportunities, support and platforms, young people can be leaders of using STEM to make the world a better place.  That’s why I set up Youth STEM 2030.

You see, being able to make a positive difference – I don’t think there’s an age limit on that. And making genuine contributions to our scientific understanding? I know that there isn’t an age limit on that either.

Young people are experimenting, inventing and innovating, right from their kitchen tables, local green spaces, and for some, at school or university labs.

At Youth STEM 2030, we want to empower youth to use Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths to change the world! Why?  Because we believe that young people can, through STEM, be at the forefront of progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

We’ve just recently launched our first project, Youth STEM Matters, a totally youth-led scientific journal which provides young people with a platform to share their research, ideas and innovations with the world! We want to maximise the impact of each project, and have an ethos of working to make each article the best it can be.

Young people can get involved in our global team of volunteers (we regularly advertise various roles, from artists, to reviewers, to web developers!) or by submitting an article. This can either be the write-up of a STEM based project, or a more informal piece, such as a blog or news article.

We hope that through our platform, youth globally can connect and make a meaningful contribution to tackling some of our world’s biggest challenges.

I know that by this point, some readers might be thinking ‘That’s awesome, but how can I use STEM to make a difference?’ So here are my top tips for getting started with a STEM project:

  1. Think about what you care about and how you want to help people... Do you want to make life easier for people with a disability, help protect the environment, tackle the issues of hunger and poverty, or find new clean energy sources that communities can use?
  2. Think about what you’re good at...What are the unique skills that either you or your group have? Are you good at asking questions? Doing research? Finding out why things happen?  Coding? Speaking to people? Maybe you have first-hand experience of the problem that you’re trying to solve? Everyone has skills and experiences that are valuable in STEM!
  3. Get started by doing lots of research!  Find out what’s already out there. Have other people investigated or invented a similar thing? Don’t be dismayed if you find that someone has already done your idea – look at what they’ve done, and figure out how you can make it even better!

If you’re not sure where to begin, we’ve got a growing number of resources on our website, and we’re always happy to offer help and advice – just send us an email!

Social media

Twitter @YouthSTEM2030
Instagram @youthstem2030

About the author

Mhairi McCann is Founder & CEO of Youth STEM 2030, and member of our CoW advisory group

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