Meet the Finalists: Digital & STEM

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Ainsley Carnarvon, Heart of Midlothian Innovation Centre

Ainsley, with 13 years of dedicated service as a youth worker and STEM advocate, has had an unmistakable impact on the Heart of Midlothian Innovation Centre’s digital journey. 

Originally from Trinidad and Tobago, where youth work deeply influenced his own path, Ainsley leverages his rich experience to create meaningful change for young people in Edinburgh.

As the Digital Education Strategic Programme Manager, he has nurtured vital partnerships and launched initiatives that combine football, sports and STEM education, opening new pathways for young people and encouraging widespread professional support for the benefits of youth work.

Championing inclusivity and celebrating diversity, Ainsley has become a pivotal figure in promoting STEM education through the FIRST Tech Robotics Challenge (FTC) in Scotland, serving as a role model for teachers and students alike. His efforts have not only introduced countless young people to STEM but also solidified the Innovation Centre as a crucial hub for community engagement. 

Ainsley’s commitment extends beyond programme management to forging key partnerships that enhance the scope and impact of youth work. Collaborations with local and national organisations including Science Ceilidh, the National Robotarium, Heriot-Watt University and Stellar Omada have allowed for the creation of unique mentorship, apprenticeship, and learning opportunities, breaking down stereotypes and preparing young people for future success. 

Through his leadership and caring approach, Ainsley has enabled young people to develop technical skills, boost self-confidence, and access unparalleled experiences. The tangible difference he has made in their lives, evidenced by their testimonials, highlights the profound impact of his work, making the Heart of Midlothian Innovation Centre a deserving finalist in the Digital & STEM category of the #YLSAwards. 

Darren Stuart, Glasgow Life Youth Team

Glasgow Life Youth Team’s remarkable Young STEM Leaders pilot across two secondary schools is truly digitally charged. Led by Darren Stuart, they are being guided through the wonderful world of STEM

Undertaking the SCQF accredited Young STEM Leaders award, they have made significant strides in guiding groups of secondary school pupils, initially identified through pastoral care, through a transformative journey in STEM fields.

From January to March 2023, the team engaged in comprehensive STEM training, allowing them to become trained Tutor Assessors. This empowered them not only to spearhead the award but also to nurture the CoderDojo Peer Mentors project, providing young people aged 16-to-24 with vital volunteer experience in leading coding clubs.

The team’s dedication has turned S1 pupils, who initially found leading group sessions a daunting challenge, into confident, aspiring leaders, particularly evident during their exhibitions at local primary schools.

Employing a youth-led approach, the team injected excitement and engagement into the programme, responding to the young people’s interests and suggestions for the showcase events.

In addition to enhancing technical skills, the team has made remarkable contributions towards the soft skill development of the Young Mentor CoderDojo volunteers, aiding in their personal and professional growth.

Darren’s commitment to creating an inclusive, engaging, and educational environment has not only inspired participants towards STEM careers but has also significantly improved their teamwork, leadership, and communication skills, marking a notable impact in the Glasgow community.

Commenting on the programme, Drumchapel High School’s Depute Head said: “I am so proud of each of them, as I know this would have been nerve wracking for some of them. It must have been such a great experience for the Primary 3 pupils also”.

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Rachel Piper, Brag Enterprises

BRAG Enterprises through Rachel Piper has proven themself to be a digital wizard in breaking down employment barriers for young people in Fife through the power of digital learning and gaming.  

Through the “No-one Left Behind Employability” provision, funded by the Scottish Government, BRAG has creatively engaged disadvantaged young people in a unique partnership with Abertay’s School of Design and Informatics. From February to May 2023, this collaboration brought to life a playable game, designed and developed by young people, which now stands as the centrepiece of their new Tech Hub venue in Leven. 

Alternating sessions between Abertay for game creation and BRAG’s Office for foundational skills in rapid game design, character creation, and programming with Scratch, Python, and Raspberry Pis, the project embraced a co-design approach – with over 50% of participants progressing to positive destinations. 

Seeing gaming as a hit with its young people, Rachel has nurtured social bonds with gaming nights and workshops, guiding them through the art, design, and tech needed for game creation. Their main quest? Crafting a first-person action-survival adventure in a fictional Scottish castle, made possible by partnerships with industry giants like Raytheon and The National Robotarium. 

This initiative has inspired several participants to pursue careers in game design, with a number of participants gaining employment in the industry thanks to both technical and soft skills acquired during the project. 

BRAG Enterprises’ work stands out for its transformative impact, making it a deserving finalist in the Digital & STEM category of the #YLSAwards – truly a game-changing bit of magic to learning and employment! 

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