Meet the Team- Jas Atkins
Jas has been a STEAMWORKS activity officer since 2019. She’s an aspiring plant biologist, a university society secretary and artist. We spoke about why it’s important for primary students to have exceptional science role models.
February 11 marks International day of Women and Girls in Science. This week, STEAMWORKS is marking the occasion by celebrating female contributions to the scientific world.
Where better to start than by talking to Jas Atkins. Jas is a STEAMWORKS club leader, and uses her role to inspire the girls in her workshops to pursue a future in STEM.
Like many of our talented activity officers, Jas is a student at the University of Sheffield. STEM subjects have always been a passion for Jas, who is completing her Biology degree this summer.
As well as being a part of the team, Jas is the secretary of the University’s Carbon Neutral Society. She has also started her own art business, selling made-to-order watercolours.
Jas at STEAMWORKS
Jas has been an activity officer and assistant for almost three years. She’s since moved up and become a club leader. She said: “I’ve been leader at one club so far, that was at Aston Hall last term. I really enjoyed it.
“You’ve got the responsibility of setting up, looking after all the children there and making sure they know what they’re doing while giving them the scientific knowledge they need to carry about the activity that week. You give them an example of how to do it too, I often get a couple of students to help me demonstrate too.
“It was a 4 week block at Aston Hall, and before that I was a club assistant at Dobcroft Infant and Junior in 2019 and 2020. Until, obviously, Covid messed it all up for a while!”
Jas’s STEM and art credentials make her a perfect fit to join the STEAMWORKS team.
“That was something which really intrigued me about STEAMWORKS,” she said, “the application of STEM subjects with art as well. If you can apply the subjects to artistic skills and craft then they can be a lot more interesting and can suit a wider range of students and people. “
How STEAMWORKS inspires girls to get involved in STEM
Since this is the week we celebrate #womeninscience day, we asked Jas about the positive influence we can have on the girls in our workshops.
Jas told us about her encounters in the classroom, and about her STEAMWORKS experience more broadly.
She said: “I think it’s important that girls do get taught science very early on. I also think it really helps that most of the people that I’ve come across in STEAMWORKS are female.
“To have that role model of a young female teacher guiding them can be very inspiring. And a lot of club leaders aren’t the same age as their teachers, so we probably act as a link between them and experienced teachers and STEM experts. We can show them the progression from the start of their education into their career.”
We asked Jas more about what it’s like for girls to have STEM role models early on in their education. She said: “When I was their age, my role model at school was the science teacher, so I’m probably a little bit biased!
“Outside of the teachers at school, I think it would have been really amazing if I had the same sessions like we provide at STEAMWORKS. There wasn’t anything specifically focused on STEM subjects and I think I would have really appreciated that.
“If there’s something you’re passionate about, then you need to do as much as you can to get involved and help spread the word. You need to use your position, such as teaching at STEAMWORKS, to let others know about the amazing things they can do by talking about them.
“I think its amazing, the female leadership at STEAMWORKS. I’ve got such an amazing boss and I think she’d be any student’s role model. “
How has STEAMWORKS helped you?
As well as giving school students more opportunities to get engaged in STEAM, our activity officers get the chance to develop and grow their confidence along the way too.
As well as her society role, Jas is diving deeper into the plant science and sustainability world. She’s in the process of applying for a Masters with the hope of specialising in plant diseases and how to manage them. We asked Jas if her STEAMWORKS experience has helped her.
“Definitely,” she said, “beforehand I was not very confident in public speaking. When you’re plonked in front of a class of 20 students all staring at you and expecting you to know what you’re doing, you get the chance to build on those skills.
“For my Masters application I have to answer a question which explains where I’ve shown leadership and communication skills. I’ve completely filled that section in with my time at STEAMWORKS.”
Here’s what she’d say to new starters: “If there’s anything holding you back then the STEAMWORKS team can always helps you to do whatever you need to do. STEAMWORKS has really helped me through uni especially with my communication skills. It’s given me confidence in my public speaking and confidence in myself. I can absolutely recommend joining STEAMWORKS.”
“Just do it. If you need any support, there will be someone there for you.”
STEAMWORKS on #womeninscience day
According to the UN, despite tremendous progress in increasing participation in STEM education, women are still greatly under represented. Woman researchers routinely receive smaller grants than men, and account for just 12% of members of national science academies.
This won’t change without positive intervention. That’s why the UN declared February 11 as International Day of Women and Girls in Science to stress the importance of the gender gap.
At STEAMWORKS, it’s our responsibility help to overcome these inequalities by proving that science is for everyone. We’re incredibly proud of our female led team and to get to work with people like Jas. Our aim has always been to inspire all the young scientists in our workshops, regardless of gender.
Our team of teachers, makers, engineers and scientists works to ensure our primary school science workshops are accessible and interesting for all students. We’ve honed our combination of STEM and art to reach all students, especially the ones who need that extra reassurance to know that they can be scientists too.