A TechFest competition which challenges senior pupils and students to research and write an essay is back for 2023.

Bridging the gap between school education and higher education/working environments, STEM Next has strong links with industry and is sponsored by Energy Resourcing, Ocean Winds, Salamander, Stromar and CNOOC International.

STEM Next is a solo project which requires the young people to undertake independent research, including an interview with an external industry professional, prior to writing an in-depth response to their chosen essay question.

Three interdisciplinary categories will form the basis of this year’s STEM Next essay submissions. Those taking part will be able to choose from a selection of essay questions broadly themed around ‘Energy in Action’, ‘Life Sciences and Medicine’ and ‘Chemistry and Biological Sciences’.

The diverse range of essay questions should mean there is something that will appeal to all potential essay writers.

Dr Yashka Smith, STEM lead at STEM charity TechFest, said: “As young people near the end of their senior secondary education, STEM Next is an opportunity for them to develop skills which they will need as they move on from school.”

The international essay competition, which last year attracted entries from countries including the UK, Vietnam, India, Iran and the USA, delivers a supported programme for 16-18-year-olds.

Young people are provided with a variety of support throughout the process. This includes a host of video resources covering topics including referencing and interview techniques. TechFest will also host question and answer sessions to provide additional, personalised, support to the young people.

Yashka said: “We’re incredibly grateful to have continued support from returning sponsors Energy Resourcing and Ocean Winds and to welcome our new sponsors and supporters, Salamander Floating Wind, Stromar and CNOOC International. Their support enables us to offer this valuable development opportunity to young people across Scotland and beyond.

“There’s no doubt that entrants to STEM Next really enjoy finding out more about their chosen subject. Those who have taken part in previous years have talked about how they have enjoyed carrying out independent research and felt that the process helped them to take their essay writing to the next level, preparing them for the level of research and work which is needed at university.”

Participants have until June 18 to register for the competition, the essay deadline is August 31, with the winners announced in November.

While the essay competition gives the entrants a chance to delve deeper into a subject of their choosing, and to learn more about something that really interests them, it can also benefit them on a broader level.

The essay writing process, combined with a competition, is a fantastic opportunity for students to learn transferable skills that they will be able to use in their future studies and career. These include research, critical analysis and communication.

Yashka explained: “Previous entrants have told us that taking part in STEM Next helped them to develop their time management skills. The competition provided a framework and structure which meant they needed to stay very disciplined to make sure they met the deadline and got their essay finished and submitted on time.

“Being able to project manage yourself is key to meeting the deadlines associated with STEM Next. It’s a skill which will prove incredibly useful as the young people progress through life, both as they continue their studies and when they take their first steps into the world of work.”

The students writing essays for STEM Next are required to research a topic and write an essay of up to 3,000 words. As part of the process, they must interview at least one external industry professional on their chosen question.

TechFest is also calling on industry professionals to sign up to support the initiative.

“Industry professionals are integral to STEM Next. The interviews are a compulsory element of the competition and help the entrants to develop their essay.” said Yashka. “Those working in, or with in-depth knowledge of, the energy, life science and medicine, chemistry or biological science industries can volunteer to be part of STEM Next.”

Anyone interested in volunteering to be interviewed by the young people as part of STEM Next should register here: Student Sign - Up Sheet (google.com).”

The winning essays will be published on www.techfest.org.uk and the top three submissions in each category will receive between £50 and £200 of Amazon vouchers.

The essays which are produced for STEM Next also enable the students to apply for CREST Awards. CREST (techfest.org.uk)

TechFest is an Aberdeen-based charity which aims to engage young people in the four main STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and encourage them to go on to follow a career which utilises these skills by demonstrating that they are both fun and relevant in day-to-day life. For more information, visit www.techfest.org.uk

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