Revving Up STEM Education: Actua’s Network Member Virtual Ventures is Sparking Curiosity and Innovation

November 29, 2023

In the fast-evolving landscape of STEM education, initiatives that capture the imagination and curiosity of young minds while imparting essential skills for the future are invaluable.

On November 18, Actua’s network member, Virtual Ventures at Carleton University, hosted its third Power Up event as part of Actua’s Revving Up Diversity in the Automotive Sector project at the Museum of Science and Technology in Ottawa. This event engaged high school youth with an immersive exploration of electric vehicles (EVs) and sustainable energy.

Fueling Curiosity and Fostering Mentorship with the Students

The day kicked off with an exciting expo, featuring Carleton Engineering Design Teams & Clubs where students were not only spectators but active participants in insightful conversations with industry experts and engineering students. The youth observed how post-secondary students are incorporating electric vehicle innovation into their projects, such as the teams’ race car and the Mars rover.

“It is critical for high school students to see what a pathway into STEM looks like. Hearing about all of the twists and turns of a mentor’s journey from high school to where they are now helps the youth start to gain a clearer picture of themselves standing where their mentor is today,” said Connor Ruprecht,  Program Coordinator, Virtual Ventures

A highlight of the event was a keynote speech, delivered by a Carleton University engineering student who shared firsthand experiences from his co-op placement in California with Tesla. He provided a unique glimpse into the dynamic developments within the electric vehicle field, offering students a connection to the real-world applications of their STEM education and showcasing career opportunities within the automotive industry.

Empowering Tomorrow's Innovators: A Hands-On Exploration of Electric Vehicles and Sustainability

Following the keynote, the event transitioned into a learning session and activity where students immersed themselves in building and coding their electric vehicles powered by Micro:bits. Students learned the distinctions between internal combustion engines and electric vehicles. The session provided a balanced perspective on electric vehicles.

“The most sustainable car might be the one that isn’t built,” said Connor, noting the discussions the students had about the complexities of material mining, consumption and the specific origins of materials. The goal was to spark awareness about both the advantages of electric vehicles and the need for conscientious consideration of their environmental impact, fostering critical thinking about climate change and sustainable choices.

Empowering Students for the Future

Virtual Ventures has three more high school workshops planned for December which will further contribute to their goal of engaging over 500 students on the intersection of technology, sustainability and the future of transportation. “The Revving Up Project has allowed Virtual Ventures to expose youth to the vast possibility in STEM fields in a manner that is not only relevant but also exciting and complex. Through this project we can delve into topics like climate change, power distribution, artificial intelligence, mechanics and electronics,” said Kyra, Program Director, Virtual Ventures. 

In a rapidly changing world, initiatives like this are instrumental in shaping the future of STEM education. Virtual Ventures, through its engaging learning initiatives, is not only empowering youth with technical knowledge but also instilling a sense of responsibility in young minds.

About Actua’s Revving Up Diversity in the Automotive Industry Project

With support from the Ontario Centre of Innovation (OCI), Ontario Vehicle Innovation Network (OVIN) and Toyota Canada Foundation, Actua’s Revving Up Diversity in the Automotive Industry program (Revving Up) will engage young people from diverse backgrounds in Ontario and help them gain skills and knowledge in STEM. This program is especially important because the automotive industry is changing, and now requires more STEM skills than ever before. With the rise of electric cars and computer automation, it’s becoming increasingly important to have these skills.

Actua’s Revving Up project will help 1,500 youth in grades K to 12 in Ontario learn about STEM and its importance in the automotive industry. The program will focus on underrepresented groups, like girls, Indigenous youth, Black youth, and other racialized youth and help them develop skills, knowledge and interest in pursuing STEM fields, including within the automotive industry. By providing access to this knowledge, Actua’s program will help create a more diverse talent pipeline for the future of the automotive sector in Ontario.