UNESCO’s recent decision that 4 March will henceforth be celebrated as World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development was a significant moment for both early-career and established engineers alike. Starting in 2020, the annual celebration will present a global opportunity to celebrate the profession and encourage the next generation of engineers to solve the challenges of the future. Our previous article on the announcement can be found here.
We sat down with WFEO President Dr Marlene Kanga, who led the initiative, to hear her response to the announcement:
“Engineers have a hand in designing, creating, or modifying nearly everything we touch, wear, eat, see, and hear in our daily lives.”– American Society of Engineering Education
UNESCO’s recent declaration that 4 March will henceforth be celebrated as World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development was a significant moment for both early-career and established engineers alike. Starting in 2020, the annual celebration presents a global opportunity to recognise the profession and encourage the next generation of engineers to solve the challenges of the future.
We recently invited STEM-enrolled high school students from six schools across Ayrshire to attend a careers-in-engineering event at Dumfries House in Scotland, led by several members of the QEPrize Ambassador Network. The event, held in The Morphy Richards Engineering Centre on the estate, provided a series of engaging demonstrations to highlight how engineering is a viable and rewarding alternative to other STEM-related higher education courses that the students may be considering.
Alongside raising the profile of engineering, a key aim of the QEPrize – both operationally and symbolically – is to inspire the next generation to take up the profession and face the challenges of the future. The Morphy Richards Engineering Centre at Dumfries House provided the perfect environment for the occasion, as it runs various programmes throughout the year designed to highlight the value of and exciting career prospects in engineering.
Letitia Wright with Shell Eco-marathon students (Left to right: Shaniyaa Holness-Mckenzie, Hannah Clark, Letitia Wright, Kim Everett and Olga Posopkina) – Credit: BP
Engineering Real-life Heroes
On Monday (25 June), Shell launched a commendable online film — Engineering Real-life Heroes— as part of their annual #makethethefuture campaign to inspire the next generation of innovators. The film aims to shift current perceptions of STEM subjects and help reduce entry barriers to the sector for young people — young women in particular.
The representation of women in the UK within technical fields compares poorly with the rest of Europe – idling around 23% of the STEM workforce. As Dr Larissa Suzuki — the 2017 WES Young Engineer Award winner — recently highlighted, one of the main reasons for this low entry rate is the scarcity of visible role models in the profession for women.
As we’ve discussed throughout this month, there is a systemic underrepresentation of females, and people from black and ethnic minority backgrounds, in engineering. Promoting engineering to a wide audience is important to raise the profile of the profession. However, young people entering high school are one of the key players in changing this underrepresentation, as they can help to produce a generational shift in diversity. Encouraging young people to study engineering, and promoting engineering colloquially, are therefore part of a long lead strategy aiming to tackle this issue. As such, events that create a fun interaction with the field early on in life are therefore central to both improving diversity in the field, and to lessen the skills gap.
Jamie D’ath is a mechanical engineering apprentice at MBDA. She was a finalist for the 2017 WISE One to Watch Award and won the 2017 Mary George Memorial Prize for Apprentices. We asked to hear Jamie’s thoughts on the benefits of engineering apprenticeships, as well as her opinions on potential entry barriers to a career in engineering.
Who am I?
I’m a fourth-year apprentice engineer at MBDA, Europe’s leading developer of missiles and missile systems. I’m currently in the final stages of completing my HND in Mechanical Engineering and am working with the trials department for my final placement where I will stay once my apprenticeship is complete.
I got into the world of engineering through the World Skills Mobile Robotics competition. I was asked to compete as programming was a hobby of mine and the robotics team needed an expert. We came third in the competition and I met some of the experts from MBDA who told me about opportunities there, which encouraged me to want to work with them.
Imagine that you’re in the middle of a festival crowd, dancing away to the most dynamic names in music. 50-foot fireballs are exploding into the air, audience members are being abducted by acrobatic performers and luminescent creatures are swooping from the sky. Oh, and imagine that you’re looking up at a 50-tonne mechanical spider.
Arcadia is a performance art collective renowned for engineering mechanical monsters that they use as large-scale performance spaces. Perhaps the most recognisable of these is The Spider, a 360-degree structure built from recycled materials. Created by sculptors, engineers, painters and pyrotechnicians, the arachnid is an experiential dance stage for festival attendees.
How do you inspire the next generation of engineers? It turns out that a batch of ‘flying’ eggs, some eye-catching PowerPoints and a whole lot of spaghetti can make a pretty good start.
On 21-23 March, a team of three Ambassadors visited Ashmount School in Islington, to inspire students as part of their STEM week. Their lessons were inspired by engineering ‘heroes’ in the form of Andrea Beatty’s characters, ‘Iggy Peck, Architect’ (year 1) and ‘Rosie Revere, Engineer’ (year 2). Year 3 learned about Lonnie G Johnson (NASA engineer who invented the super soaker).