16 Jan STEMx Talk; My STEM Journey – BY Lucy Ikpesu-Ewhubare
My name is Lucy Ikpesu, A Chemical Engineering graduate from Delta State University, Abraka and a 2014 – 2016 WAAW Foundation College fellow.
I currently serve as a Program Manager at Working to Advance African Women (WAAW) Foundation, I am a passionate educator in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and an international STEM Ambassador with over 3 years of experience, I also have 1-year working experience in Refinery plant operations and processing in Warri Refining and Petrochemical Company (WRPC). I am passionate about Civic engagement, improving quality education and supporting gender equality with a focus on engaging more African girls in science and technology disciplines. I want to see more young women like myself go into STEM discipline and be involved in technology innovation.
My STEM Journey
I grew up in a community (Afiesere town) in Ughelli North LGA of Delta State, where girls’ education is of no importance. 25% – 30% of girls drop out of school due to early pregnancy or inability to further their education to a university due to poor family background.
The very few girls that went to the university opted for non-STEM courses especially business courses, because they say it is simple and easier for girls. But whenever I ask why, the answer was always, engineering and technology courses are meant for the boys. This triggered my interest in pursuing a course in engineering. As I grew older, I identified my dream of being a chemical engineer especially to work in the oil & gas sector or food industry.
I got accepted to study Chemical Engineering at Delta State University. In my class, we were 62 in number out of which 10 were females. This shocked me but still made me even stronger to pursue it. My parents were afraid that I chose to study chemical engineering instead of Nursing or Pharmacy which were options they gave to me. My Dad was tensed about how he would pay my fees and buy my books, knowing that studying any engineering course is expensive. I am the 2nd of 8 children of my parents, my dad is a farmer and my mum is a private school teacher, so I could understand his fears.
My first and second year in the university wasn’t easy as it was difficult paying my tuition fees, accommodation and purchasing books. During the holidays, I take up menial jobs in other to raise money for the next semester.
In 2013/2014, I applied and was accepted for the Agbami/Chevron Medical & Engineering undergraduate Scholarship. This was huge academic support for my family. The scholarship covered my tuition from 3rd year to the final year. I am eternally grateful for the opportunity.
During my undergrad days, my passion for Science and Tech led me to volunteer with WAAW Foundation as the assistant chapter lead for my University to impact young girls in public secondary schools close to my university in Oleh, the headquarters of the Isoko South Local Government Area, Delta State Nigeria on STEM education.
I and my team conducted outreaches, tutored and mentored school girls at 4 public secondary schools on STEM using a practical learning approach on their science subjects and basic computer programming, which impacted over 2500 students.
Another interesting part of this journey was when I served as an intern in the production unit at Warri Refining and Petrochemical Company (WRPC) in the Fluid Catalytic cracking (FCC) unit and Catalytic reforming unit (CRU). I had a great time working with professional chemical engineers, and I could see all my theoretically knowledge live.
In 2017, during my National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) year, I embarked on a community development service project on STEM Education, health sensitizations and mentorship for girls. It was my most overwhelming impact. The goal was to make my 1-year service memorable and to impact lives. Awesomely, the project ended well (with an accolade); Honors award, Federal Capital Territory Abuja, Nigeria.
In 2018 at the Next Einstein Forum’s Africa Science Week in Abuja, I was recognized with the Young Woman in Science Award, for my contribution to STEM promotion in Nigeria.
Upon completing my NYSC I was offered a position as a STEM Trainer, and now the Program Manager at WAAW Foundation. My job deliverables were developing and implementing project-based STEM curriculum and initiatives for low-cost secondary schools and teachers. I also manage WAAW Scholarship program committee, university chapters as well as designing the curriculum for the smooth running of the WAAW college chapters and programs. I manage the WAAW STEM teacher’s training program, summer code school as well as facilitate STEM and coding courses at our workshops.
In January 2018, I attended an international STEM workshop organized by MASHAV at The Aharon Ofri International Training Center in Jerusalem, Israel. This workshop brought together 23 persons from 11 countries around the world (I was the only representative from Nigeria). In November 2018, I was selected as one of the facilitators for the African Union in Tunisia during the Youth Capacity Building workshop on Coding, where I taught 52 participants from 45 African countries coding using scratch and Mbot robots. In November 2019, I and my team facilitated a 1-week STEM teacher training program, a workshop sponsored by African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) in Rwanda.
My Career Plan:
I plan to further my career in Chemical Engineering and focus on chemical processing to acquire the skills which will help me to deliver need-based and life-world problems especially taking part in processing vital for economic development in Nigeria. My long-term goal and immerse desire is to be academia; a Lecturer of Chemical Engineering after my masters’ studies as well as to further pursue Ph.D. studies, and in turn give back to society and instituting a research teaching strategies, especially in the higher institution.
My Advice to the young once (Especially the girls)
Dear students, You are the future of the world, and this can only be possible if we recognize the importance of STEM in society. The world is going digital through STEM skills, hence, we should not be left out.
Dear Girls, Stereotypes may discourage you from pursuing STEM careers, but do not be left out in this journey, I urge you to pursue a career in STEM, and to stick with it.
The journey may look tough, but never give up. No dream is too big to achieve, it will only take some time to achieve it.
Thank you WAAW Foundation for the opportunity to share my STEM story. This story wouldn’t have been complete without you (WAAW Foundation).