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photo of pupils presenting at one of the Athena Stem events

Athena STEM inspires over 50 pupils at multi-day event with the support of the Ford Fund

The Athena STEM programme – formally known as Girls into STEM and supported by the Ford Motor Company Fund – returned last week.

Aimed at secondary school students who identify as female, previously the event has been residential but due to Covid-19 restrictions, the School and College Liaison team had to adapt the way the project was run.

This year 54 students aged 14-15 took part from three schools, through a combination of on-campus visits and the project team spending 1-2 days in the schools. The students took part in a variety of workshops and skills sessions, as well as hearing a live STEM taster session with an academic dialling into the classroom. 

Throughout the visits, students worked together in teams, supported by female STEM Student Ambassadors, to develop a product or service that would help people to live greener and more sustainable lives in the future.

Students then presented their projects to a panel of judges at the end of the week. Products ranged from advanced recycling stations that remove the plastic ring around bottles, or breakdown plastics with enzymes – to eco-villages, buses and an eco-gym called ‘Energise’ in which the equipment generates the electricity and power for the gym and the local community. 

In addition to in-person teaching, the team has launched an online Athena STEM resource which includes career talks, academic presentations and skills workshops.

Commenting on their experience, Amber Gayle, a student at Landau Forte College Derby said:

“The project was amazing, especially because we managed to do it despite the restrictions of Covid-19. It was really fun and I’ve learnt loads.”

Marie Shaw, Senior Outreach Officer in the University’s School and College Liaison Team, said it was a pleasure to be able to work with students in person for the first time in over a year.

She commented: “It was amazing to see students grow in confidence over the course of the week and we were blown away by the research, ideas and creativity that the students displayed through their projects. We hope we have inspired the students and made them think about what STEM subjects they might like to study in the future.”

Debbie Chennells, Ford Fund Manager added: “I am delighted that the students found the experience insightful, enjoyable and helpful. Our aim is to give them a glimpse of the multiple opportunities that can exist within the fields of STEM and fill them with optimism to achieve their ambitions.”

For more information on Athena STEM please visit the webpage here. Teachers are welcome to register their interest for next year’s event by emailing Marie Shaw at