STEM charity Teen-Turn pivots online during Covid-19 pandemic
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STEM charity Teen-Turn pivots online during Covid-19 pandemic

6 May 2020282 Views

The charity, which promotes STEM career paths, has addressed any barriers to access its new remote programmes.

Teen-Turn, the charity that encourages young girls from under-represented backgrounds to think about STEM careers, has pivoted hard to ensure it continues to reach its community and keep them engaged as Covid-19 restrictions continue.

In the past four years, Teen-Turn has helped more than 600 girls to get involved in conversations around career paths in STEM. Its CEO and founder, Joanne Dolan, said the team was determined to continue to help girls across Ireland interact with mentors and role models throughout this challenging time.

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“The Covid-19 closings required Teen-Turn to pivot our hands-on STEM learning to a wide range of online activities,” said Dolan.

“We were conscious that our cohort does not universally have access to equipment and/or the internet in the same way as many of their peers, so we had to be tactical in our approach. In order to make our after-school [programme] available to as many beneficiaries as possible, we undertook a comprehensive plan.”

The charity subscribed to two online video-conferencing channels, then contacted schools and, in turn, parents and guardians for permission to allow under 18s to be contacted by email and attend video conferences. It also confirmed GDPR permissions from parents, guardians and participants via a form on its website.

Teen-Turn has to date scheduled more than 40 sessions of online activity mentoring and exam grinds, mobilising two Garda-vetted mentors so that one could be present online at each session.

An equipment loan scheme was set up, as a considerable number of the charity’s community do not own or have access to computers or tablets. Mobile phone data credit was provided to facilitate those participants who can only access the internet through their phone, and ‘how to’ webinars were organised to explain how to hotspot a laptop to a phone. The charity also loaded materials onto USB keys for those in rural areas for whom internet access is unreliable.

“The costs involved were significant, from the purchasing of software subscriptions, mobile phone credit, refurbished laptops and tablets and USBs, to printing, postage and couriers,” said Dolan. “We are extremely grateful to The Community Foundation for Ireland for their contribution in covering these expenses.”

Providing Leaving Cert grinds and STEM-related learning sessions, Teen-Turn is always happy to chat to volunteers who want to help the next generation of young women into STEM. If you have the skills and the willingness, get in touch on contact@teen-turn.com.

Disclosure: Ann O’Dea is on the advisory board of Teen-Turn.

By Ann O’Dea

Ann O’Dea is CEO and co-founder of Silicon Republic, Europe’s leading technology and innovation news service, reporting online since 2001. Ann was the driving force behind Silicon Republic’s Women Invent campaign, launched on International Women’s Day 2013, to champion remarkable women role models in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and to help tackle the gender gap in the knowledge industries. She was the founder and curator of Inspirefest, a unique new international sci-tech event, which grabbed headlines for disrupting the traditionally homogenous tech conference calendar. Today, that event has evolved into Future Human an event that aims to showcase the leaders building the products and services for a new tomorrow. Ann is a fellow of the Irish Computer Society and the Institute of Art, Design & Technology. She received a Net Visionary award from the Irish Internet Association in 2015 for her work on ensuring the visibility of remarkable women role models in her industry, and was named ‘Media Woman of the Year’ at the Irish Tatler Women of the Year Awards 2014. In 2015, she was the first woman to be inducted into the Irish Internet Association’s Hall of Fame. Ann sits on the advisory board of TeenTurn, which secures internships for under-represented youths in tech and scientific organisations. She is a sought-after speaker and moderator at tech and STEM events.

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