Stephanie Robinson uses STEAM to empower young people. Written by Zoe Parker
You may not know this, but STEAM. is an an acronym for: Science, Technology, Art, Engineering and Maths activities. Steph uses it to have conversations with young people. She is interested in the ways we can transition to a more equitable and lower-carbon society. Her new company, Makatopia uses STEAM to explore leadership skills with young people. Her aim is to address climate change and inequality issues. I interviewed her and here is what she had to say.
What is the type of activism you do?
My activism is creative. I like finding novel ways to talk about issues that have been around for a long time. One thing I do, is use practical skills to empower people. I want them to build the confidence to take on decision makers and political power structures. Similarly, I like getting other people involved in preference to working on specific campaigns. For instance, I have done a lot of anti-fracking campaigning in the past. At this point, I am more interested in raising the next generation of campaigners and activists.
How did you get into it?
I got into activism when I was 15 because my first boyfriend’s family were really political. They were interested in opposing war. They were anarchists and vegans. Importantly, they took me to loads of protests. Then we went walking around Menwith Hill RAF Base and I learned about government surveillance and GCHQ. We had a lot of discussions around civil liberties and global history. This expanded what i knew.
When I was 17, I picked up a leaflet about Climate Camp. Climate Camp was a week long protest around a coal-fired power station that was closing and re-opening with carbon caption storage. After that, I went to this protest camp and it was like a week in a field with, I think, about 2000 other people. Over the week, there were loads of workshops to take part in.
Most importantly, everyone was encouraged to take some sort of direct action at the end of the week to shut the power station down. One thing I loved, there was a family-friendly peaceful march which appealed to me. The protest chant chanted “we are gonna come for you over land sea and air”. They also had hot air balloons and even boats, which i found so inspiring. a few people did manage to get onto the whole belt and shut it down for the day which was really cool. I remember walking in to that camp and feeling like it was instantly very familiar. It felt like home.
What got you interested in pedal power and S.T.E.A.M?
Everyone was grouped into regions at the camp. I was in the Yorkshire camp. In particular, we had loads of meals together. Significantly, there was also a media tent and here, all the journalists could get wifi. That media tent was powered by a pedal power generators.
I felt frustrated as a teenager because I didn’t feel like anybody was interested in climate justice. So, when I saw these pedal power generators, I just thought that they were really cool. I could feel how much power I was generating and this excited me because people will engage if they experience it themselves. So then I held on to that idea. At this point, I went to ‘uni’ to do an environmental social science degree (which I nicknamed the ‘save the world degree’). My course taught me about energy policy in the uk, refugees and forced migration.
After that, I moved back to Leeds and I heard about a small funding pot for Young People from 02. Of course I applied and was amazingly I was successful and with it built my first pedal power generator. Then we got a few other grants and built it up, and built it up, and Cyclops Pedal Power C.I.C as a company was born. Over the next 3 years, we created 7 pedal power generators and have done loads of activities with communities. What’s notable, is that it works the way I wanted it to. This way of working was engaging people and more importantly, it’s bringing people together.
What are you doing now that’s exciting you?
What’s great about the integrated city model is that it is tactile and you can interact digitally. This means you can see the cause and effect right now. At the moment, we are being told that all these things are having these effects but we are really far removed form them. Using the STEAM model, we see the results of our actions immediately in the game. This really brings the message home.
People need a positive vision to aim for and a road map to get there.