My path to engineering.
Starting in the Autumn term of Year 11, my journey began with the ‘Arkwright Engineering Scholarship’. It looks for those who are interested in an engineering-based career, and the next generation of leaders in ‘engineering, computing and technical design’.
Over the Christmas holidays I completed an online application based on my achievements and projects so far. I talked about the chair I had designed and made with 52 biscuit joints and 9 sets of dovetails, and how the process had challenged my ability to problem solve. I wrote about my interests in backstage management of school productions, and the different sets and stages I helped to build. They asked for times where I had shown leadership, so I wrote about a Christmas wreath making session I had run whilst volunteering at a local youth club “The Underground”. The application allowed me to ask myself where I had shown creativity, leadership and practical ability. Writing about my experiences enthused me and reinforced that this was the career I wanted.
Next came the technical design aptitude test. I attempted to solve 2 complex problems challenging my scientific and creative sides to work in unison. It pushed me to think of solutions to concepts like utilising rainfall in the UK to make electricity for household appliances.
I was then invited to an interview hosted by Loughborough University. During the interview, I had to speak for 15 minutes about my GCSE Design Technology project, my interests in stage management and set building, and my career aspirations. The interview, with two professional engineers, felt different from anything I had done before; they were keen to hear about what I could bring to their profession, and how I was specifically interested in the design of buildings and structures. It was important for me to show my own personality through our conversation, so Arkwright could pair me up with a sponsor that was the best match. As we talked, I found myself learning and seeing my projects from different perspectives as we discussed the reasons behind decisions I had made.
I was grateful to be one of the 425 students to be awarded the Arkwright Scholarship in 2017. I am sponsored by ‘the Patrons of the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers’ who were paired with me for my interests in the built environment. In November 2017, I was invited to the awards ceremony at the Institution of Engineering and Technology in London where I met my sponsor, and we talked about the opportunities that were available to me.
At my work experience for Westlakes Engineering in Cumbria, I experienced the office life of a structural engineering consultancy. When speaking to a woman in the office I found that she (like me) chose engineering for its mathematical and practical applications. She inspired me and built my confidence telling me engineering wasn’t black and white and there is so much creativity.
I am now in my first year of A Levels, taking Physics, Design Technology, Maths and Further Maths. In my DT lessons, we have started our major design project, and I have chosen to solve a real-life problem based around my interests for theatre management and set building. I came across the problem of props storage and display whilst working on the five-night production of Hairspray which my school performed this year, so I am redesigning the concept of a props table. Drawing from personal experiences for my research means I can use focus groups and conduct interviews with people that have knowledge of the theatre environment.
Looking forward to university, encourages me to do things that push my boundaries. In March I built a 3D printer that arrived flat pack with no instructions. I found a silent video and followed its method. The eight hours of construction were worthwhile, as I challenged myself to understand the electrics and technical construction of a 3D printer and gained experience in electrical work.
In April 2018, my Arkwright sponsor invited me to their annual lunch at the House of Lords. I was asked to give a presentation about my experiences and future aspirations. This unique opportunity to gain contacts and listen to the stories of leading professionals was extremely beneficial. The support Arkwright has given to me on my path to engineering is invaluable. I highly recommend the scholarship scheme to anyone looking for a career with creativity, practicality and the experience of solving real problems.
(this article first appeared in: Design and Technology Association Magazine)