Earth Observation STEM Outreach

On 19th July Katy Willis (PhD student funded through a LiCS grant) was a STEM Ambassador at an Earth Observation themed day for year 8 and 9 students. Along with other Ambassadors she took part in a “What’s My Line?” activity.

Katy provided some suitable props (rock samples and a large picture of Sentinel-1a complete with COMET and LiCS logos), gave a short talk and answered questions to small groups of students. Each group had three minutes to guess what her job was.

Sentinel-1 constellation. Credit: ESA/ATG medialabs

The rocks created a lot of interest but when the students learnt that Katy used computer models to learn how the rocks deformed the questions started coming. “They were curious about the practical application of maths and how to learn basic coding,” reports Katy. One teacher came back to thank her for encouraging a group to see how class room based learning translates into the wider world.

While some of the pupils had previously heard of the term geologist, none of them had heard of a geophysicist before. They were curious about what other geophysicists did and questions were asked on subjects as diverse as landslides and the Earth’s core. The link between the Sentinel satellites and the rocks they were holding in their hands, and the ability to measure land from space was new to them.

Despite nearly losing her voice, Katy enjoyed the day. “Schools cannot know every future job opportunity,” she says, “and outreach days like these allow us to encourage a future generation of researchers.”