Dr Peter Hughes – STEM – 3 March 2020

“Inspiring Youngsters into STEM” (that’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths for those not in the know) was the advance title for the topic of our most recent speaker, Dr Peter Hughes, so it was of some surprise to see him rushing into the hotel foyer heavily loaded with cases carrying a variety of stringed, musical instruments. It soon became apparent that this unexpected and energetic start to proceedings typified Dr Hughes’s approach to teaching as well as to life itself.

The main thrust of the project is about taking STEM into both Primary Schools (The Primary Engineer) and Secondary Schools (The Secondary Engineer) via suitably trained teachers and accredited engineering ambassadors. His lively, entertaining, and enthusiastic presentation focused on the importance of engineering to society and on the ability of schoolchildren to absorb complex subjects if suitable teaching techniques are employed. These he clearly possessed in abundance along with an obvious, genuine interest in, and appreciation of, the pupils themselves. Friendly competitiveness is encouraged through design and build challenges such as building model automobiles with low-friction mechanisms to increase efficiency. His serious message to kids is one of “can do” and he described his way of explaining to youngsters that they were all capable of extraordinary things, that doors were never closed, and that he himself had suffered, as a boy, from doubting his own capabilities. His star turn involves selecting a member of his junior audience (in our case definitely senior since Harry Peter’s was the put-upon stooge) with no previous musical experience to show that they could, nonetheless, play a musical instrument. (Okay, with Harry it was hard work but the point was made).

Ron Ireland gave the well-deserved vote of thanks.