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STEMpact: inspiring kids and creating impact in the community


It’s never too early to start inspiring children through science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education! Umicore and primary school Githo Nijlen created an action plan to do just this. By making STEM education tangible and exciting  we hope to inspire more young kids to dream about future careers in these fields. Our joint action plan is one of three finalists for the high-profile STEMpact award.

STEMpact: bridging gaps in STEM education

One of the challenges facing STEM education is that primary schools tend to focus on language and mathematics and teachers sometimes miss the expertise or tools needed to make STEM shine in the classroom. An integrated approach is needed: structurally anchoring STEM topics in the general curricula, rather than offering them as stand-alone subjects, projects or occasional field trips.

“It’s important that children are introduced to STEM early. It will lead to more young talents with the right competencies graduating in the futurean.”

Ine Wauters, Umicore’s Young Talent Coordinator

Colleagues across Umicore work with local educational institutions, from primary schools to universities. For example, we’ve worked with primary school Githo Nijlen in Belgium since 2021, when we helped develop a new STEM study programme, Biological & Chemical STEM Sciences. Expert colleagues at Umicore eagerly contributed technology and innovation insights and business cases on sustainability and recycling, which proved to be a great match for both partners!

Now we’ve teamed up to make an even bigger impact together. Umicore and Githo Nijlen developed an action plan for integrated STEM education, starting in primary school. This is part of the STEMpact initiative, organised by The Flanders' Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VOKA) and backed by the Flemish government’s Excellence Funds. In the STEMpact contest, 20 primary schools partner with local companies to create a STEM education action plan. As Githo Nijlen’s business mentor, we worked closely with the school on its plan.

Joint action plan for regional impact

How are we going to improve the quality of STEM education? Our joint action plan has three pillars: the STEMbox for primary schools; a STEM academy to train primary school teachers on how to use the box in the classroom (including a visit to Umicore); and the Githo School@Work project, which offers secondary schools relevant topics and tools for multidisciplinary STEM projects.

What’s the STEMbox? Packed with teaching materials, fun facts and hands-on experiments, it’s completely tailored to 6-12-year-olds. Umicore staff from across the company shared innovative insights on topics contained in the box, such as circularity and recycling, smartphone batteries, electrification, and windmills.

“The secret is to think about what resonates with young kids: famous people, online influencers and real-life problems are a hit. We also involved our older sixth-year pupils in creating the box contents and mentoring the younger pupils during the experiments,” says the school’s Technical Advisor, Jan Van Weert, who Umicore worked closely with.

We made it through to the final round of STEMpact, along with two other finalists! On 29 May, Umicore and Githo Nijlen will pitch their ideas to a jury during the STEMpact award finale. 

“We are thrilled to be in the running for the STEMpact award. If we win, it will be a major catalyst for STEM education in the region as it will be rolled out regionally by the government, reaching manyl primary schools in Flanders!” exclaims Jan. 

Energy and passion

Ine says the STEMpact partnership is an amazing example of what we can achieve when we work together, both within Umicore and with the community. 

“It was inspiring to bring all these experts to the table, each with their own expertise and experience. Their energy and passion is simply incredible! Everyone involved genuinely loves working together to improve STEM education and inspire more youngsters to choose a career in STEM.” It’s been deeply satisfying to work on this together!

“Working with Umicore gives us that extra boost and widens our reach. It’s incredibly nice to work with such talented and motivated people! Their enthusiasm is contagious – it creates a chain reaction of positivity and innovation that impacts everyone involved”.

 Jan Van Weert, School’s Technical Advisor

Sparking STEM excitement

Whether we win the STEMpact award or not on 29 May, collaboration is key to the future of quality STEM education and awareness in Flanders, and beyond. We will continue to partner and pursue our shared goals, no matter what!

“The added value of bringing experts in education and business together is enormous – it enables us to connect theoretical curricula to tangible cases and needs from the business world. To do this with Githo Nijlen, which is already a frontrunner in integrated STEM education, is very valuable for us,” Ine concludes.

Reflecting on the impact on students, Jan shares one of his most memorable moments in the project so far: “One of the best things for me is seeing how engaged our pupils are. I’ll never forget this quote from one of our student mentors: I can't stop thinking, he said. This is why we do it, to see that spark in their eyes and how excited they get about STEM!”