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University of Bristol introduces students to STEM & addresses the need for more Black Educators

Some of the mentors (L-R): Eileen Atieno, Mictroy Mitchell, Eitel Tehapdeu, Melissa Chigubu, Dr Adeayo Sotayo and Benjamin Omasanuwa

Aiming to encourage black pupils from City Academyto come to University, and to consider wider careers in STEM subjects, the event showcased the roles of black engineers and scientists and was inspired by discussions with the Assistant Principal for Inclusion at City Academy in Bristol – Aisha Thomas. In a 2018 study, Aisha found that there are 26 black working teachers in Bristol’s secondary schools, out of more than 1,300 across the city and found that this lack of representation is one of the factors that leads to low inclusion of black students in Higher Education.

Thirty-one pupils from City Academy attended the event, listening to talks from Professor Tanniemola Liverpool (Mathematics, University of Bristol) and Benjamin Omasanuwa (Head of Mechanical Engineering Design Office, Safran Seats GB).

The pupils also took part in demonstrations – including practical sessions on forensic science, ink-jet printing and a demonstration of a Chaotic pendulum by Mictroy Mitchell. Mictroy was born in Kingston, Jamaica, but when he came to the UK, he went to City Academy. After working in the railway engineering sector, he moved to the University of Bristol as a Research Technician in the Earthquake Laboratory.

Mictroy said: “I love giving back to the community. It fills my soul with joy knowing that I am helping and inspiring the younger generation.”

The event was set up by Lara Lalemi, a Chemistry student who last year organised the Being BME in STEM workshop and report, which highlighted the need for work around the inclusion of minority groups.

Lara said: “In the current climate, where there is a lack of domicile BME students studying a STEM subject, this event endeavoured to show the fun side of chemistry, biochemistry and engineering, encouraging young students to consider studying them in higher education. We want to inspire the next generation of scientists, mathematicians and engineers and this event is work towards that.”

Professor Stephen Eichhorn, co-organiser of the event, said: “As a white-male Professor in the UK I represent the majority in my profession. It is important to recognise that barriers to access Higher Education, particularly in STEM subjects, are significant. This is especially true for black students and professionals.

“We need to increase opportunities and routes into Higher education. One size does not fit all. We also need to increase representation of black educators in Higher Education. If we don’t do this, we miss out on great talent pools of potential.”

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In what ways do you think we could increase the connection with the community as well as the number of black educators in STEM fields?

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