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The University of Southampton

STEM roller derby inspires next generation of engineers

Published: 23 March 2020
STEM roller derby
(l-r) Dr Sadie Jones, Joy Richardson and Jessica Stead prepare for the STEM roller derby

Female and non-binary role models from science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) disciplines competed in a roller derby event that encouraged young people to discover new career choices.

Dozens of female and non-binary pupils watched games that included University of Southampton players and then quizzed them in speed networking sessions at the event in High Wycombe.

Human Factors Engineering’s Joy Richardson, nicknamed ‘JoyStixx’, refereed the matches, which included contributions from Physics and Astronomy’s Dr Sadie Jones, nicknamed ‘Shady Supernova’, and Ocean and Earth Sciences ‘Knitphomaniac’ Jessica Stead. Biomedical scientist Kelly Wall also supported the event as an official.

Roller derby is a contact sport where teams of skaters support or thwart ‘jammers’ as they attempt to lap opposing teams. Joy plays alongside Jessica in the Southampton City Rollers, while Sadie is a member of the Portsmouth Roller Wenches.

“It’s so important to show young female and non-binary students that there are role models like them out in the world having fun enjoying a sport and at the same time successfully pursuing a career in a STEM subject,” Joy says. “We are strong on the track and strong at work too.”

Joy provides experimental support to the Hi:DAVe and STARS projects in Human Factors Engineering at Southampton. She is interested in research in the areas of gender, sexuality, gamification and the representation of the past, and is currently studying for a part-time PhD.

“The students were very engaged and asked lots of sensible questions about different career paths, what we enjoyed most about our careers and what advice we would have given our younger selves,” Joy says.

“A common theme in the conversations was not to panic. The choices made about future careers during school and college might determine your immediate future, but at the same time there’s always the potential to change direction. Focus on what you enjoy rather than what you need to achieve a certain goal, that way you will always enjoy your work.”

STEMroller included over 70 players and officials from more than 30 STEM industries. Four of the players have represented their countries in the Roller Derby World Cup.

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