Science Heroes Association (Bilim Kahramanları Derneği) received grant support from our Meltem Göçer Fund for the fourth phase of its project “Girls Meet Science”, which we have been supporting since its inception in 2018. The project aimed to enable girls to gain science, technology, mathematics, and engineering (STEM) skills as well as gain experience in areas such as coding, project development, teamwork, and making presentations.
Read below our interview:
Science Heroes Association recently celebrated its 11th anniversary. Can you tell us about the changes that have taken place in your field of work and that your association has experienced?
Science Heroes Association was founded by a group of science friends who started to implement the FIRST LEGO League programme in Turkey in 2004, developed in partnership with FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) from the United States of America and the LEGO Group from Denmark. Our founders, who reach children through this programme, which is implemented in more than 100 countries today and which we have launched in Turkey under the name of Science Heroes Meet, started this journey by dreaming of working on behalf of science, scientific thinking and science awareness in Turkey. In 11 years, we implemented many programmes and projects for children focusing on science, technology, engineering, and the development of various skills, supported scientists, and raised awareness throughout society through activities in different cities of Turkey, and reached more than 60,000 children.
We can mention two prominent topics regarding the change. Firstly, in 11 years, our work has both deepened and expanded. 19 years ago, the Science Heroes Association started its story by supporting the participation of children between the ages of 9-16 in the FIRST LEGO League programme. In 2022, we carry out activities in different areas of the STEM world, from aviation to software, from efforts to increase girls’ interest in technology to developing learning environments that bring scientists and young people together.
With the support of 48 teachers from 16 cities, we reached 115 girls who participated in the Little Science Heroes Meet programme.
Secondly, the Science Heroes community supported transformation as young people who graduated from our programmes started to support (volunteer, donor, expert, member, etc.) our work during their university years and in their professional lives. Our Volunteer Platform, which we launched in 2021 with the support of Alper Dokay, who met the association when he was 13, is one example. With the support of the BOOST Civil Society Technology Acceleration Programme, which is carried out in partnership with Koç Holding and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and with the contributions of the For My Country Fund, we prepared the Science Heroes Volunteer Portal. We developed a platform for our volunteers and alumni under the leadership of Alper, who was a senior Computer Engineering student during the project. In addition, Dimitra Pribilovic, one of our alumni, is on our board and actively participates in the work and decision-making processes.
With the Science Will Win with Young People project, you enable high school students between the ages of 14-18 to come together with scientists. Can you tell us about the project activities and the interest of high school students in science?
In cooperation with Pfizer Turkey, we started the Science Will Win with Young People project in 2021 to bring young people together with scientists and inspire their career choices. Our target audience is high school students between the ages of 14-18. With this project, young people who meet with scientists online from different disciplines ranging from nanotechnology to genetics, artificial intelligence to psychology, gain experience and information in areas that interest them.
Before starting university, high school students need to meet with scientists from different fields and receive guidance on their university and career choices. Our online workshops contribute to fulfilling this need. According to our evaluation, young people access workshop announcements mostly via social media. The participants enjoy and are motivated by the fact that the workshops include applied content and experiments. In the face of such an interest, we hope the project will become widespread by including different activities.
Enabling us to reach 20 teams from 16 different cities, this grant support contributed to our aim of supporting gender equality in the STEM field.
You have recently completed the 4th phase of the Girls Meet Science project, which you implemented with our grant support. Can you tell us about the project and its activities?
We completed the 4th phase of the project in August. With the support of 48 teachers from 16 cities, we reached 115 girls who participated in the Little Science Heroes Meet programme. The theme of the programme this year was CARGO CONNECT: The Journey of Cargo. Each team focused on how cargo is transported, sorted, and transferred to delivery points, and discovered problems and innovations in these areas. Then, they designed their ideas to improve the cargo transport process using LEGO pieces. They added moving parts to the models by coding.
Throughout this process, they gained teamwork, problem-solving, communication and research skills. At the Little Science Heroes Meet festival, they presented their work and participated in fun activities with their peers. At the end of the festival, each child received a medal to show appreciation for what they had learnt. Also, each team received an award in the area where their work was the strongest. Thus, the programme motivated girls from public schools to participate in STEM studies.
In addition to the Little Science Heroes Meet programme, girls participated in creative writing workshops moderated by children’s literature writer Nilay Yılmaz. The workshops aimed to boost girls’ self-confidence and contribute to their self-expression skills. In addition, to increase the teams’ visibility, we prepared a digital newspaper. At the end of the project, we repeated our impact research in cooperation with Bahçeşehir University BAUSTEM. This research showed that girls’ interest in STEM careers and self-confidence increased. Girls who enjoyed the learning process started considering STEM careers for their future.
How has the grant support from our Meltem Göçer Fund contributed to your association and your work? Why do you think it is important for donors to support the work in the field of children?
This grant support contributed significantly to our goal of reaching disadvantaged children in public schools. Enabling us to reach 20 teams from 16 different cities, this grant support contributed to our aim of supporting gender equality in the STEM field. It also enabled us to create space for experience sharing and learning between the children and the teachers. Since working in the STEM field is a bit more costly, it is not easy to access the support that will enable us to reach 20 teams at the same time. In this context, this grant support, which prioritises children, has been very supportive of us.
Since working in the STEM field is a bit more costly, it is not easy to access the support that will enable us to reach 20 teams at the same time. In this context, this grant support, which prioritises children, has been very supportive of us.
The size of the target group and the diversity of needs in the field of children make the support of different donors crucial. We always need the support of corporate or individual donors for our STEM projects targeting children between the ages of 4 and 19. Research shows that in the new world, countries can achieve economic growth and support the planet’s sustainability by focusing on productivity and innovation-oriented work with a well-equipped workforce. The basis of this is to support children from an early age with trainings that develop different skills, especially STEM. For this reason, we can say that all donors who support work in the field of children contribute greatly to the future.
Can you tell us about the activities and priorities of the Science Heroes Association in the coming period?
We will continue to implement our FIRST LEGO League and World Robot Olympiad Turkey programmes and reach more children, especially disadvantaged groups. We will continue to communicate with our donors to increase the impact of our current projects. In addition, to reach more disadvantaged children, we aim to establish permanent science workshops in public schools and develop training programmes to support teachers’ STEM skills. In addition, we want to prepare our applications in a way that will support both the communication and visibility aspects of our projects, as well as reach young volunteers and support their skill acquisition.
About Science Heroes Association
Science Heroes Association’s mission is to promote science and scientific thinking at an early age for children and young people by using innovative methods. The association works to overcome several problems such as the lack of high-quality education and technological infrastructure, the lack of role models in the scientific fields, or the inadequate introduction of existing role models, the common belief that science and mathematics are difficult, and the stereotype that science, technology or mechanical works should often be done by men.