My STEM inspiration: building partnerships between education and industry
Stewart Harrison’s cyber club has recently been shortlisted for a 2018 STEM Inspiration Award. He shares how his club has grown over the last couple of years, and how humbled he is to be among those shortlisted.
The starting up of a school cyber club was a rather serendipitous affair after receiving an email from a STEM mailing list. As an ordinary physics teacher, I wondered if this was something worth exploring for my students, whom more often than not, seemed to be lured into other professions.
With both modest facilities and no experience in the cybersecurity world, we were driven by purely by our curiosity and the challenge. So much so that our initial team of seven qualified first time round to the finals at Bletchley Park. Eighteen hours of competition and exposure to like-minded people made our first unsuccessful attempt the catalyst for success the following year.
Meanwhile, our media exposure brought us more invaluable connections from within the industry, BWin being the first to come forward to offer our students free training. Our 2016 win at Bletchley Park would have not been possible without the support of my hardworking teaching colleagues, voluntary members of the industry who gave up their time after work to share their expertise and the enthusiasm of our students with their eagerness to conquer new territory.
There are now over forty students in our modest club. We receive equipment donations, attracting sponsorships and internships for the most inquiring minds from the likes of EY and Apple. We are immensely proud of our teams aged between thirteen and eighteen, which are importantly both neurodiverse and gender inclusive. Our first female team not only rose to the challenge but also won the ‘All Girls’ category at the 2018 CyberCenturion.
I am humbled by this nomination, but the exposure is simultaneously invaluable. I could not have envisaged the opportunities my students are continuing to have and the skills they have gained at the summer camps organised by Hedgehog Security or courses run by GCHQ. We need to keep them engaged and at the forefront of change to meet the needs of our rapidly changing industries.
Gibraltar is working towards being a front-runner in Fintech and Blockchain technologies. It is essential that STEM Clubs continue to collaborate and that we build valuable partnerships between education and industry. I am grateful and honoured to be in such a position, not just in my daily role of helping learners but also bridge the gap between the curriculum and STEM industries in a creative, inclusive and sustainable environment, that will stimulate our local economy and beyond. Take a look at their video about cyber security.