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Educational outreach programme broadcasts Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) knowledge to the Highlands on Wester Ross-based Two Lochs Radio which covers Gairloch, Loch Ewe, Torridon, Ullapool, and Coigach

By Ian Duncan

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Fiona MacKenzie.
Fiona MacKenzie.

A Wester Ross radio station will be helping to raise awareness about STEM-related career choices in the Highlands.

Aberdeen Science Centre’s (ASC) Highlands and Islands outreach programme is taking to the airwaves with a new educational programme ASC2U.

Two Lochs radio will explore the world of science and address the issue of skills shortages by showing how the sciences relate to daily life, opening up a range of career opportunities.

Covering Gairloch, Loch Ewe, Torridon, Ullapool, and Coigach in Wester Ross, ASC2U will be broadcast quarterly, and produced and presented by community outreach Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) co-ordinator, Fiona MacKenzie.

The 30-minute programme will highlight some of the exhibits from the newly transformed Aberdeen Science Centre – the centre underwent a multi-million-pound redevelopment and expansion over the past two years and now includes more than 60 new exhibits.

The outreach service was set up by ASC to give communities in rural and remote areas the opportunity to learn more about STEM activities and opportunities through links to the centre.

In the programme, Ms MacKenzie will discuss the science behind the selected exhibits and enlist the help of experts who will highlight potential STEM career paths related to these and how they link to, or are relevant to, the Highlands.

The first show, which aired in January 2021, focused on marine habitats. Featuring the giant habitat jigsaw in ASC to set the scene, Ms MacKenzie was joined by experts from Nature Scot, then into the lab with STEM Ambassador Sylvia Soldatou, a ‎postdoctoral research fellow at Robert Gordon’s University, and on location in a sea cave to interview local seaweed specialist Ailsa McLennan.

The show, which is now available as a podcast, dives deep into habitat mapping from space, looks at blue carbon storage and talks about medicines we can get from the sea, and how these themes are relevant to Highland communities.

She said: “I’m really passionate about community engagement, so I wanted to create something that would be of interest to local people, while also addressing the skills gap and promoting opportunities for careers in these fields. Many people don’t realise the STEM opportunities available in remote areas.

“I’ve been involved with working in radio in the past and established a good relationship with Two Lochs radio, which is a big part of the community. When the opportunity to provide content and broadcast a show came up, it seemed a perfect fit with ASC’s Highland outreach initiative.

“Digital delivery of knowledge is great, but in this area, many people don’t have access to broadband. Using Two Lochs means we can reach a wider section of the community and we’re also making contact with the listeners to the station, many of whom may not previously have had the opportunity to learn about STEM and how it applies to everyday life."

The next show is due to be broadcast in April.

Ms MacKenzie has identified subjects she would like to cover, but choice of content will be a moveable feast, leaving flexibility to pick up on STEM related topics which are topical and in the news at the time.

Possible future topics include renewable energy, and current activity relating to space exploration, both of which are hitting the headlines now.

She added: “Working with the team at ASC, we’ll identify topics that are current and interesting. These will all link back to exhibits in the centre and their place in our day to day life.”

Part of the focus of the radio programme is to involve and engage the community, and members of the public are invited to suggest content which they would like to see included in the programmes.

Two Lochs Radio is broadcast in Wester Ross on 101.8,106,106.6FM, and online here.

Following broadcast on Two Lochs Radio, the audio files will be available as podcasts on Aberdeen Science Centre’s website.

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