Students from SAP partner high school, Templeton Secondary in Vancouver wrap their first year of STEM programming with a community celebration.
Late-June is an exciting time of year. It marks the last days of school, and whether you have children or not, the feeling that summer is around the corner is palpable.
While it’s been four years since I was last a student, this past year my work at SAP has sent me back to high school more times than you might expect. At the same time that students are celebrating the end of a successful year, SAP North America can share in a bit of that excitement.
June, 2015 marks the close of the inaugural year of SAP North America Corporate Social Responsibility’s signature initiative. In both Queen’s, New York and Vancouver, British Columbia students were enrolled in a program – a partnership between their local school board, a local post-secondary partner and SAP – that would see them focus much of their learning on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) content.
In Vancouver, this past October, in partnership with the British Columbia Institute of Technology and Vancouver School Board, SAP launched Templeton STEM – a first-of-its-kind program that uses project-based learning, mentorship, workplace experiences and a pathway to post-secondary to inspire and prepare students for careers in technology.
On Wednesday, June 17, the first year of Templeton STEM culminated with an event called TEMPTalks. In TED style, students presented a series of short talks that tackled big topics, including how the education system must adapt to celebrate the spectrum of learning styles, the strength of interdisciplinary collaboration, and suggested solutions to the tech gender gap.
To an audience of over 150 attendees, students Arjun and Sean closed the evening with an inspired talk that argued human connection is the fabric that powers technology.
As I sat in the audience, surrounded by the students’ SAP mentors, teachers, friends and family, what struck me was how much these young people had grown from when we met them back in October. The students that stood on the stage demonstrated poise, maturity and thoughtfulness. I think this is on account of two main factors: project-based learning methodology, and their exposure to industry professionals in their SAP mentors.
Project-Based Learning: Integrates many facets of design thinking, including an iterative design process. Rather than learning the material, being tested and getting the answers right or wrong, students instead had the opportunity to immediately see practical, relevant applications of the theory they were taught in class. By building mousetrap racecars, load-bearing cranes, wireless rovers, thermal cubes, and more, students were able to see real-life applications of, and make connections between, concepts that might typically taught in silos.
Mentorship: Before the event, students had the opportunity to come on-site to SAP Vancouver, where a team of 10 mentors gave feedback on the dry-run of their talks. The mentors in the audience that evening consistently remarked on the students’ eagerness to accept feedback and integrate it into their talks.
In addition to these in-person mentorship opportunities, students and mentors collectively spent over 1,500 hours this school year on an online mentorship platform, completing exercises that ranged from self-efficacy to career planning. The proudest moments for me during the TEMPTalks event were when students said things like, “my mentor taught me to think in sprints,” and “my mentor introduced me to so many technology careers that I didn’t know existed.”
And the students weren’t the only ones learning. When asked to share her reflections on the evening, and her experience as a mentor this year, Celine Burgle put it best:
“What comes to mind is 2 words: Raw Talent.
I’ve had the privilege to follow the evolution of students going through STEM this year and the progress they have made is astonishing. This platform is a fantastic opportunity to prepare youth to today’s work environment. It allowed them to be so creative, collaborative, passionate and confident, let alone presenting in front of a large audience, very impressive!
It is not just mentoring, it is also reverse mentoring. They are so effortlessly talented in so many ways. I know we will hear more about these individuals in the years to come.”
Reflecting on the first year of STEM reinforced for me the power of this program to inspire our next generation of technology leaders while also inspiring the talented people we have at SAP today who are passionate about making the world run better.