Pictured are students learning and applying programming skills in one of the in-person FAS Outreach programs prior to the pandemic.

New funding will help lower barriers to accessing STEAM education in B.C.

June 09, 2021

There is an imbalance in accessibility of education in the field of science and engineering. New Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) funding is supporting Simon Fraser University Faculty of Applied Sciences (FAS) in closing these gaps through programming that inspires youth at a young age to pursue higher education in these fields.

FAS has been developing and delivering STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) educational programs, which currently reaches more than 12,000 youth annually, to engage with youth in local and rural B.C communities. Announced today, FAS is receiving more than $400,000 from the NSERC PromoScience Program to expand their programming activities over the next three years.

“We are very excited about the funding announcement as it will allow us to increase our efforts to engage with under-represented groups in B.C.,” says Jinny Sim, who is the Outreach and Diversity Manager in FAS.

This considerable funding will be used to improve existing programs and develop new ones dedicated to providing accessible STEAM education. The aim is to lower barriers for under-represented youth, who would not usually have access to these learning opportunities in B.C., due to their socio-economic status, gender, cultural background, or other barriers for participation. In the past year, FAS Outreach offered virtual programs to reach students beyond their usual geographic region.

By inspiring positive change in students’ attitude toward STEAM in a fun and safe learning environment, they can feel more motivated and confident to pursue higher-level education. Students will be provided with hands-on experience and problem-based opportunities using the foundations of science and engineering. To maintain their engagement and long-term interest, students will continuously learn new materials and concepts while applying what they have learned to solve real-world problems.

The new programming will use the expansive repository of STEAM curricula from existing FAS Outreach programs, including Science AL!VE, to develop their material. Students will be given the opportunity to experiment with educational technology such as Pepper, Edison and Sphero robots, which are not commonly available in classrooms.

The FAS Outreach program continues to include more female and culturally diverse instructors in their staffing to create a welcoming environment and programing that is informed by a diversity of perspectives. The team will also be working with their local and community partners, to leverage their expertise and to ensure that the work carried out is impactful and customized to the partners’ and communities’ needs.

“Through this programming, we are dedicated to creating a diverse, equitable and inclusive community where we use our humility, compassion, intellect and position to dismantle systemic and cultural barriers,” says Sim.

"We hope our outreach efforts will encourage and inspire the next generation of youth in B.C. from all backgrounds to consider a career in STEAM, thereby contributing to a more enriched, inclusive, diverse and innovative future in the field of science and engineering.”

Read the Press Release from NSERC>>