Growing up, I was always fascinated by the way things work. Most of my childhood activities were driven by a curiosity to answer the questions ‘how’, ‘why’ and ‘what if’. Despite this natural zeal for problem solving, I never considered engineering as a career until I was about 15. I thought that all engineers did was slide under cars in blue overalls and come out covered in oil – disgusting! That’s not what I wanted to do: I wanted to build; design; create. I wanted to change the world.
I stumbled across a competition where you had to research ‘problems of the 21st century’ and how engineers can solve them. I started exploring global problems and was surprised that engineers could be involved in solving all of them in one way or another. Whether this was childhood obesity and developing technology to entertain children and keep them active, or developing sturdy but lightweight and portable shelters to combat homelessness.
Going to the Big Bang Fair allowed me to see just how dynamic the field of engineering is and how it comes under the umbrella term for STEM. However, a darker truth was revealed to me about the lack of people going into these fields, especially women. Why would they want to go into this fields if they thought it was just sliding under cars covered in oil? If people knew just how exciting engineering was, I’m sure they wouldn’t be as dismissive as I initially was!
To address this awareness gap, I started a STEM Society in my school, with the aim of enthusing students in my school about STEM. This has included running daily lunchtime activities for younger students and outreach events with primary school students, such as the Hour of Code. I have even run summer STEM programmes in Nigeria, to empower teens to see STEM in a different light. So far, the society has been extremely successful, allowing students to understand what STEM is and letting girls retain their natural excitement for science and maths subjects – an interest which usually lost during the jump from primary to secondary school.
Thankfully, my school were quick to support me, making it easier to launch events. I also had huge support from the Arkwright Scholarship Trust, which provided me the financial means to start the society, as well as STEMettes, who have bucket-loads of cool STEM related activities to get involved with. The best way to describe what I do with STEM Society is to think of engineering as an amazing, super-cool adventure land that is already made and built. All I’ve had to do is get students to take a step into the funfair – the amazingness of engineering does all the work from then on!
In a way, the biggest beneficiary of STEM Society was myself, as it showed me what I can achieve and how I can use my motivation and drive to influence people. Starting the society gave me the confidence to apply to Russell Group universities to pursue a degree in engineering. I am not exactly sure what I want to do after this, but I will definitely still get involved in outreach and community events to continue to inspire the next generation to get involved with engineering. After all, if I truly want to change the world, I might as well start now.