STEM and Soft Skills

STEM and Soft Skills: introducing our Summer Challenge

Ian Couchman
July 25, 2020

Hi, I'm Ian

Hi. I’m Ian. First and foremost, I am a husband to a wonderful wife and father to two wonderful kids and I count myself very lucky every day. I see my own children develop and I never cease to be amazed by their beautiful, high energy, emotion filled, honest perspective on the world. I hope that never wanes; the tantrums, maybe, but not the uniqueness.

In my professional life, I manage the renewables technology group at the engineering consultancy Frazer-Nash. I am passionate about developing cost effective renewable energy solutions and I want to use my career to accelerate a greener future. I appreciate the importance of soft skills in both personal and professional spheres and I am motivated to help equip the next generation.

I have always found STEM to be a natural motivator and I am looking forward to guest posting for KidCoach to try and share some of that.

Mental Health

We seek happiness. Of course we do. And we are beginning to appreciate just how large a part our mental health plays in that. It is a journey of enlightenment. Not that long ago, the gym was the domain of the sports obsessed. Now we understand that our physical fitness improves our mental state. Even more recently, meditation was an activity for the religious. Now we are observing that the ability to process and manage stress is contingent upon our ability to be present in the moment.

If you want evidence, simply look at how many street corners have a gym or the rapid growth of apps like Headspace.

Two months ago, I became aware of KidCoach. We all know the importance of soft skills in team working, broadening ones horizons and learning. But I think less publicised is the relationship between soft skills and mental health. I don't just mean the skills to listen and respond when someone says 'I need help', or for that matter the courage to be the one saying it. I mean the day-to-day soft skills that enable us to disagree, to drive each other forwards, and to take risks healthily and constructively.

See for instance this excellent commentary by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health.

I see these three things: physical fitness, meditation, and the strength of our soft skills as operating in concert, managing our mental health. The first two we actively develop, the third is due an overhaul. We know we have a mental health crisis with stresses from work, the pace of life and the volume of ‘noise’ we are exposed to. I believe developing great soft skills in our children will help.  

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Where STEM fits in

For my day job, I lead a team of fantastic engineers delivering services to the renewable energy sectors. It struck me both that excellent engineers need excellent soft skills; but also that children have a natural curiosity of all things science, technology, engineering and maths. So I reached out to Kavin at KidCoach with a simple question: can we work together to harness every child's natural enthusiasm for STEM to develop such skills? And so we cooked up a plan.

We want to create a summer holiday challenge for all those parents out there.

The KidCoach philosophy revolves around giving parents questions to fuel great conversations. Discussions that can happen anywhere, at any time and for any duration. Topics specifically conceived to develop thinking in one of a number of key areas. So the thinking is this:

Our summer holiday challenge will take the form of seven blogs on seven STEM subjects with seven associated sets of questions.

The blogs are aimed at setting the scene. Each will be about some scientific / technical insights and will provide the context from which the discussion can be made. At the end of each blog we will offer some questions for parents to ask their children about this. Examples would include:

  • How does your interaction with Alexa differ to that with your best friend?
  • Steve Jobs experienced a number of high profile failures, why did he persevere?
  • Will a computer learn to empathise?
  • What will the inside of a driverless car look like?

For Educators out there, this style will borrows from the cognitive acceleration in science education (CASE) model, where well set-up "thinking" lessons have been shown to enhance a student's ability to reason.

I'll be honest, this is out of my comfort zone. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn't. But it feels great to try.

Let's start some great conversations!

Read the first blog in the series here.

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Written by
Ian Couchman

Ian is a dad of 2 kids and leads a team of engineers delivering technical services to the renewable energy sectors. He is passionate about green energy, STEM education, and soft skills alike, and will be guest posting for KidCoach to bring us his very own Summer Challenge!

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