I love the impact I can have on my community by sharing my passion while still fiddling and tinkering with things, just now sharing the journey with the younger generation.
Although Steph Elder completed a bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering and Management (BEngM), pursuing an engineering career wasn't in the cards for her. She couldn't help but follow her passion for sharing her excitement for all things STEM with youth. And we are glad she did! Steph is the Interim Director of Youth Outreach for Destination Exploration at ULethbridge. Her enthusiasm for STEM is evident in everything that she does.
What excites you about science?
What excites me about science and STEM, in general, is the endless possibility for exploration. There are so many topics and ideas that people can explore, and that leads to learning and getting excited about the world and how things work.
What sparked your interest in science and your related field?
I was always building and fiddling with things around the house from a very young age, creating hacks that would make my life a little easier. I didn't realize at the time that this is essentially what engineering and STEM boil down to—solving problems for people using the knowledge and materials around us. After I finished my degree, I was expected to go right into the industry, but that wasn't what I wanted my life to be. I loved engineering and everything that I had learned in school – but now wanted to share that with kids and anyone who may not have realized that they too could pursue a career in STEM. I jumped right into working with McMaster's youth STEM outreach program and immediately felt like this was what I was meant to do. This experience eventually led me across the country to work with Destination Exploration here at the U of L. I love the impact I can have on my community by sharing my passion while still fiddling and tinkering with things, just now sharing the journey with the younger generation.
Tell us about the first time you felt really excited about what you were learning?
When I think back on when I first started working within STEM outreach, I was always surprised by how different every child, teacher, and classroom was. Depending on the schedule, I would go out and visit groups, sometimes delivering the same workshop 3-,4-,5- times a week. But what I quickly realized was that although the topics and activities were the same, my delivery or way of engaging with the students was always different. I would bring a science topic to life with a hands-on project, but without fail, each class or group would teach me something in return. As kids always seem to do with adults. Being able to share my passion, play and explore with STEM, and, in turn, learn about the people in my community and what cool things excite them continues to excite me about my job even to this day.
What words of inspiration would you like to share with the next generation of women and girls in science?
Don't sell yourself short. Nothing stops you from doing what you love or even what you think you might like. No matter what the boys or anyone else say. Many young people shy away from studying things in school because they feel like they won't succeed. Then down the line, there might be regret about not trying when they had the chance. The best part about this is that there is still time. Even if you are settled in your ways, you may still have that nagging urge to figure out why the planets haven't fallen out of the sky or how to build a bookshelf for your study. You can still do it! There are so many forms of information and resources that even if you just want to spend a few minutes on your phone looking it up, it may help you build up the confidence to take tangible steps to change the world—even if it's just your world. You got this.
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