Science field trips and writing stories: a modern combination

By: Nick Wake: Marketing Director, iFLY UK

In a recent article, Mike Hollinshead highlighted that the key to getting young people interested in pursuing a career in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) is to help them learn through experience. In the United States, the iFLY champion doing exactly this, is Christina Soontornvat.

Christina is a classic modern worker, who has channelled a passion for working with young people into two very different directions. When she's not at an iFLY wind tunnel extolling the virtues of physics, she's likely to be at her desk, writing her next children's story. Christina's lifestyle illustrates that it's perfectly possible in today's flexible working environment, to combine a job in STEM with another occupation or interest that contributes to the household income.

After graduating with an engineering degree, pursuing her master’s in science education, and establishing a career focusing on ‘informal,’ or out-of-the-classroom education, Soontornvat started writing fiction when she was pregnant with her first child. It wasn't long before she published her first children’s book, The Changelings. Today, as well as continuing to write and deliver talks to schools, she is a consultant for iFLY Indoor Skydiving, where she has developed and continues to oversee the company’s STEM Education field trip programme. Tens of thousands of school children and students have now been through the programme at iFLY Indoor Skydiving tunnels all over the US.

“Our goal is to use the thrilling context of indoor skydiving to get students excited about STEM,” Soontornvat says. “We want to reinforce the science and maths content they are already learning at school, while giving them an experience they could never get inside a traditional classroom. We also get the chance to talk to these students about STEM careers - particularly engineering — and show them how fun and interesting solving real world problems can be.”

Soontornvat highlights the strong demand for science graduates, while wanting to play her part in ensuring greater diversity.

“STEM careers are the fastest growing, highest paid jobs all around the world, and they provide the most robust job security,” Soontornvat says. “In order for us to solve the problems of the future we must have a diverse STEM workforce. That means ensuring that girls and young people of color are receiving a strong STEM education both inside and outside of school.”

More information on UK STEM programmes.