Feb 16, 2022
By Dan Powell, Head of Neon
In September 2020 we launched Neon, a website that brings together the UK’s best engineering experiences and inspiring careers resources to help STEM teachers bring their subject to life with real-world examples. Since then, we’ve focused on improving the platform to suit our users’ needs, taking an iterative approach.
Teachers are really making the most of Neon, downloading careers resources, discovering, and saving experiences and hearing the stories of real engineers. Thousands of teachers are using Neon every month and we’re regularly adding new experiences, collections, and resources to keep them engaged.
A bit of background: Neon is the product of the collaborative effort highlighted in the original (and subsequent) Perkins Review of Engineering Skills. It builds on the work of Tomorrow’s Engineers in bringing the community together to collectively help teachers find quality engineering experiences.
Since launch, we’ve had over a quarter of a million pageviews, nearly 2,000 registered teachers and careers advisors from 1,048 secondary schools (30% of all secondaries in the UK) and 177 primary schools, 30,000 downloads of our free engineering careers resources for teachers, and 7,000 clicks to book engineering experiences for students.
We’ve had a great response from both teachers and the STEM outreach organisations who feature their activities for free on Neon.
“Using the Neon website has increased the number of opportunities that I can offer students interested in STEM. Searching by postcode makes it a lot easier to navigate compared to some other sites.”
Secondary School Teacher
We’re delighted to be delivering on our mission to make life easier for teachers by curating the best engineering inspiration content that they can share with their students, and to drive up the quality of engineering outreach with our stringent quality criteria.
That said, there is always more that can be done. In the spring of 2021, we commissioned Clearleft – the digital strategy agency that helped us develop Neon – to hold a series of interviews to gather feedback from external stakeholders, including teachers and STEM outreach providers. They then ran a series of workshops with the wider team at EngineeringUK to process the learnings from the interviews and helped us define the direction Neon should take in the short, medium, and long term.
We found out that many of the teachers who are using Neon are already strong believers of the benefits of STEM engagement activity and know how to find and deliver activities for their students. With that in mind we decided to focus on reaching out beyond this audience to the teachers who are less confident about engineering inspiration, and those who work with students from groups who are underrepresented in engineering.
The workshops, along with feedback from EngineeringUK Corporate Members through the Business and Industry panel, helped us identify some changes we could make to Neon that would have an immediate impact for our users.
The first project we completed because of these workshops was the development of a ‘Get started’ page in the summer of 2021, a new tool to encourage teachers who have less experience delivering STEM engagement to use Neon. The page pulls together a collection of ‘quick wins’, activities to suit everyone, top tips and stories about how to use all the things featured on Neon to bring STEM to life for their students. As part of this page we developed new case studies, including 2 from schools that received a Neon bursary and serve students from underrepresented groups.
More recently, alongside updates to make the application process more user-friendly, we made 2 big updates for our cohort of engineering activity providers on Neon, which in turn will ensure that schools only see experiences that are entirely relevant to their students.
First, we released a powerful new location picker which allows contributors to target exactly which schools can see their experiences based on defined geographical criteria – when submitting an experience to be published on Neon, they can now choose from a list of countries (including all UK), regions, local authorities, towns and/or an exact postcode. This is a huge improvement on our earlier tool which let activity providers input a postcode and a ‘willing-to-travel' radius around it. Only teachers at a school in the selected geographical area will see their experience.
Next, on an even more granular level, contributors now have the option to only show their experiences to schools that meet the EngineeringUK equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) criteria – a list of secondary schools across the UK which have the highest proportion of young people from groups who are underrepresented in the engineering profession. When this setting is switched on for an experience, teachers at schools which do not meet criteria will not see that experience listed in their search results.
This last update will make Neon a more powerful tool for STEM outreach organisations and companies who want to target young people from groups who are currently underrepresented in the engineering workforce, and for the teachers who work with them.
“Working with Neon has been a pleasure. Their support has doubled the downloads for our games and lessons, and we’re delighted to be reaching more teachers and young people on a platform they are familiar with. We look forward to producing more great games and getting them into schools with Neon’s expert help.”
Helenna Vaughan‑Smith, Senior Product Manager, Enginuity
We’ve had a fantastic response to our updates and think they will make a big difference to all our users.
We have a lot more in store for 2022, including ensuring that Neon is more relevant for primary school teachers, developing the search function on the platform to improve navigability and impact, and researching and implementing a way of encouraging teachers to book multiple activities.
So, watch this space. We’re excited to get stuck in!