‘You have revitalised my love for engineering’ – March 2018 Winners blog posts

After every event we ask the winning engineers to write a short post to be sent to all the students who took part in the zone. It’s the perfect way for the engineers to reflect on the previous two weeks, thank all the students for voting for them, and talk about how they plan to use their £500 prize money.

If you’re an engineer keen to experience the ‘best crash course in scicomm’, apply now for the next event at imanengineer.org.uk/engineer-apply


Demi Ademuyewo, Costain, Millimetre Zone 

Knowing that the students voted for me has been really humbling and has spurred me on even harder to encourage children to get into engineering…It gives real insight into students and their ambitions. Sometimes in the daily bustle of life, I forget why I chose engineering and what my career means to me. This past two weeks reinvigorated my love for STEM. I am grateful for this opportunity. Thank you once again to all of you. And please… keep asking questions! (It’s the best way to learn!).

 

Guy Rixon, University of Cambridge, Space Telescope Zone

This event has been a chance to re-evaluate my life, and your questions speak to my deep fears at a time of doubt in my career. You have eased my mind and for that I shall be ever grateful. To those of you who asked the question “can we do what you did?” here’s my final answer, the one I was not quick enough to bring up in chat. You can indeed do what I have done, but don’t settle for just that. You can do far better. I see your bright, sharp minds, your openness to knowledge, and your sense of wonder at the universe. Keep those things in later life, use them relentlessly, and there’s nothing you can’t achieve. Over to you now.

 

Hollie Heard, Archer Technicoat Ltd, Satellite Zone

I have been blown away by all the schools and students that took part; their questions, their passion and the efforts they all made to pose us some tricky and interesting questions! I can’t thank every student, teacher, and school employee enough for taking part and providing me with the opportunity to share my experiences and enthusiasm. You have revitalised my love for engineering and inspired me to achieve even more than I dreamed of. I can only hope I have inspired at least a few of you to follow me down this amazing journey!

 


If you’re up for the challenge, want to answer some downright weird questions, even learn things from students…

Apply to take part ❯

Apply now for I’m an Engineer, Get me out of here. It only takes 2 minutes and one sentence to apply!

Engaging parents with engineers

In November 2017, we ran a zone for the parents, carers and families of students in I’m a Scientist and I’m an Engineer. We want to help them discover more about engineering careers.

Why we did it

Research and surveys consistently point towards the strong influence of parental attitudes on children’s careers choices and aspirations¹²³⁴. For professions such as engineering, where knowledge of what it’s really like is generally low, parents can fall back on limiting old-fashioned stereotypes of who can become an engineer, often unconsciously biasing their children away from considering the industry.

Our brilliant lineup of engineering types

In the Future Transport Zone, parents log in, find out what working in engineering is like from the profiles of a diverse group of engineers, and ask their own questions about careers. They could then see that engineering is a profession for all kinds of children.

We also wanted to find out, if given the opportunity, parents and family members would engage more formally with the online event. We’ve often heard anecdotally that students in IAS and IAE talk about their engagement with scientists and engineers around the dinner table. If given the opportunity, would parents be intrigued enough to take a look themselves and ask their own questions alongside the children?

What happened?

A question from a parent to Craig, researcher in the Transportation Research Group, University of Southampton

Locations of people going to futuretransport.imanengineer.org.uk

79 users linked to 20 schools created accounts

69 questions asked  – 54 approved and 15 duplicates

100 answers from 14 engineers and researchers

3 evening drop in live chats where parents and students logged in to chat with engineers (5 other chats had just engineers logging in)

4,570 visits to the site, including 1,173 views of engineer profiles

This level of engagement was below what we had expected for the zone. Given that 130 schools and 4,878 students took part across I’m a Scientist and I’m an Engineer UK in November, it was reasonable to expect around 5% (240) of those students would have at least one parent interested enough to log in.

However, the 79 user accounts are solid evidence of students and parents logging in at home, and there were thousands of views of information about the engineers and their careers. So what have we found out?

What we’ve learned

1. We need to get more schools committed to promoting the zone

Four weeks before the event we provided teachers with copy for newsletters, flyers to photocopy and take home, ideas for using the zone in homework and we printed the zone URL on every student’s log in card.

During the event, we asked all teachers in IAE and IAS to tell us if and how they had informed parents. 30 teachers responded, of which 25 had told parents or were planning to. This represents 20% of the schools taking part.

The most popular method, used by 14 of 25 teachers, was photocopying the template flyer about the event and sending it home. Only 6 of 25 teachers posted something in the school newsletter and set logging in as homework.

Lack of time was cited as the main issue by the 5 teachers who hadn’t been able to inform parents.

Taking this 20% of confirmed active schools as a baseline we need to get at least 60% of schools informing their parents about a future zone. We might need to build parental engagement into the event as standard and work at making it as easy as possible for teachers to reach parents.

2. Some parents want to find out what engineering is like alongside their children

There were several questions in ASK clearly from parents, evenly spread between questions on the theme and those about careers. In a live chat, a family sat down together, with the student typing questions on their parents behalf.

Click to read the answers

After the event, we interviewed a parent who had taken part alongside his daughter. He said that he specifically wanted to know about the engineers’ views on how friendly the industry was to women because his other daughter was studying to become a mechanical engineer. He also said he had expected the engineers online to be undergraduates but was pleasantly surprised to find a group of experienced engineers to read about.

What’s next?

I have to say that I think this is a wonderful idea to include parents – Teacher

Parents might engage more if they were speaking to the same people as their children were in class – Teacher

The way forward for parental engagement with the event isn’t yet completely clear. Teachers approve of the idea. Parents do take the opportunity to look at the engineers and ask questions. Students want to engage more with the site beyond their classroom experience. If the aim is to engage parents more with STEM careers then when running the zone again we need to make sure they know about the opportunity.

In future, we could:

  • require teachers to confirm how they will promote a family focused zone before the event.
  • capture information about visitors to the site who visit but don’t create an account to see who’s using it that way.
  • not run a dedicated zone. Instead encourage students in all zones to submit questions from their parents, and run one or two evening live chats.
  • give parents access to Careers Zone, where they can find out about a wide range of STEM careers alongside their children.

To start with, we’ll be trialing an evening live chat open to family in school zones during the March 2018 event.


  1. Bandura A; Barbaranelli C; Caprara GV; Pastorelli C (2001) “Self-Efficacy Beliefs as Shapers of Children’s Aspirations and Career Trajectories” Child Development
  2. Schoon, I; Ross, A; Martin, P (2007) “Science related careers: aspirations and outcomes in two British cohort studies” Equal Opportunities International 
  3. ASPIRES Project Final Report (2013) “ASPIRES: young people’s science and careers aspirations, age 10-14”
  4. “Poor advice stunting young people’s career aspirations” Retrieved 28 February 2018

‘I have fallen in love all over again with engineering’ – November 2017 Winners blog posts

After every event we ask the winning engineers to write a short post to be sent to all the students who took part in the zone. It’s the perfect way for the engineers to reflect on the previous two weeks, thank all the students for voting for them, and talk about how they plan to use their £500 prize money.

If you’re an engineer keen to experience the ‘best crash course in scicomm’, apply now for the next event, taking place 5th–16th March, at imanengineer.org.uk/engineer-apply


 

Petros Papapanagiotou, University of Edinburgh, Artificial Intelligence Zone

The chats were my absolute highlights. The questions would fly in before we could even say “hi” and they wouldn’t stop even as the countdown to finish showed a few seconds left. The energy and passion and even the silly and carefree attitude of the students just flowed through the chat! It would take me at least 10-15 minutes to get back to a calm state after each chat! It was exhilarating!

 

Sean Doherty, University College London, Health Zone

Thanks to all of you for making this event so much fun over the whole two weeks! I hope you had a chance to find out a bit about what I and the other engineers do. The chats were manic and I learned a lot from you all about how to talk about my job, it sounds like a few of you will make great engineers in the future!

 

Lauren Ashmore, GMS Thermal, Mole Zone

The informal setting let students get to know the engineers, with questions ranging from education backgrounds, political beliefs and hot topic one day of Kanye vs. Taylor. By answering questions about my job and feelings towards it, I have fallen in love all over again with engineering, so I’ll be going forward with renewed vigour thanks to you, the students, for your votes and my re-ignited passion for the industry.

 


If you’re up for the challenge, want to answer some downright weird questions, even learn things from students…

Apply to take part ❯

 

I’m an Engineer, Get me out of here runs every March, June, and November. It only takes 2 minutes and one sentence to apply!

‘The live chats were INCREDIBLY exciting’ – June 2017 Winner’s Blogs

After every event we ask the winning engineers to write a short post to be sent to all the students in who took part in their zone. It’s a great way for the engineers to reflect on the previous two weeks, thank all the students for voting for them and talk about their outreach plans for the prize money.

If you’re an engineer keen to answer students’ questions, apply now for the next event happening in November: imanengineer.org.uk/engineer-apply

Let’s take a look at what the winners from June had to say…

Stacey Marple, Monitor Coatings, Smart Materials Zone

Through this event I have learnt how to explain complex engineering concepts in a simplified way and have learnt a few things from the students and the other engineers. I am very much looking forward to doing more STEM events with schools with the aim of actively getting students involved in practical engineering challenges.

Gina Schade, SONY UKTEC, Candela Zone

The live-chats were INCREDIBLY exciting and became the best part of my day… This event has also made a difference to my own perspective. When you do your job every day, it’s easy to forget how unique and exciting your work is. The students’ enthusiasm about engineering has refuelled my own and has helped rejuvenate my pride in being an engineer.

Are you up for the challenge? Want to engage with enthusiastic school students without leaving your desk?

I’m an Engineer, Get me out of here runs every March, June, and November. It only takes 2 minutes and one sentence to apply!

March 2017 Winners’ Blogs

After every event we ask the winning engineers to write a short blog to be sent to all the students in who took part in the zone. It’s a great way for the engineers to reflect on the previous two weeks, thank all the students for voting for them and talk about their outreach plans for the prize money.

If you’re an engineer keen to answer students’ questions, apply now for the next event happening in June: imanengineer.org.uk/engineer-apply

Let’s take a look at what the March Winners had to say…


Ana, Artificial Body Zone

The main reason for me to want to take part is because for me, as a student, I didn’t get an opportunity to be part of something like this. Growing up, the word Engineer meant possibly nothing to me and I had no idea that engineers could do so many diverse jobs or even become one. In fact, the sole opportunity of being able to ask absolutely ANY question that crosses your mind I think it is mind blowing.

Read more

Ollie, Robotics Zone

This has been the first time I have been involved with any STEM engagement work, but the friendly and encouraging staff that run the event helped me through giving me advice along the way. I am so pleased I took part and that is a massive credit to the students that asked me the funny, creative and challenging questions throughout the event. So WELL DONE and thank you so much for voting for me as your favourite engineer I am really honoured.

Read more

Emma, Ampere Zone

I had to really think about my work and why I enjoy doing it, which has further enthused me in my research. I hope that I’m an Engineer also enthused all you students into a career in engineering, or at least gave further insight into the sort of things we get up to (including all those lunch breaks we’re allowed).  I would like to say thank you to all of the students, for making it a thoroughly worthwhile experience for me (and a thank you to all those who voted for me too – I’m still somewhat in shock I get to spend £500 on Lego).

Read more


Are you up for the challenge? Want to show what engineering is really about? Or just want the chance to spend £500 on Lego…

I’m an Engineer, Get me out of here runs every March, June, and November. It only takes 2 minutes and one sentence to apply!

Melanie’s STEM Engagement journey after I’m an Engineer

Melanie is a graduate engineer at HSSMI and took part in I’m an Engineer last March. Here she talks about getting herself and her institute involved in more public engagement since the event.

If you’re an engineer who wants to catch the outreach bug, apply now for the next I’m an Engineer at: imanengineer.org.uk/engineer-apply.


In March last year, I participated in my first STEM outreach activity ever – I was one of five engineers in the Robotics Zone of I’m an Engineer. Since then quite a lot happened on the STEM outreach activities end!

As suggested by the I’m an Engineer team, I registered as a STEM Ambassador after the I’m an Engineer event. As a STEM Ambassador you can get involved in a lot of different activities to inspire children to pursue a career in STEM. These activities can range from giving talks at schools or careers fairs to doing networking events to supporting STEM projects in the classroom. There is a database with activities ambassadors can use or we bring forward ideas ourselves. Every STEM Ambassador is provided with a DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check, which is required for volunteering in a Child Workforce.

Melanie Zimmer public engagement 3

Merton Park Primary School visit me at HSSMI

One great thing that happened after the I’m an Engineer event was a visit to Merton Park Primary School and their Code Club. Merton Park was one of the schools we engineers could engage with during the March edition. During the visit, a colleague of mine and I did some hands-on activities with the students using the LEAP Motion and the augmented reality (AR) app Chromville, which we then linked back to the work we do. We also spent some time with their Code Club, where we learned about the very interesting smart bin designs that the children had come up with!

melanie zimmer public engagement 4

Nicola, teacher at Merton Park Primary, talks about what the students get from the experience.

Recently, we organised a visit for the students to our workplace, HSSMI. We got more colleagues involved to show a greater variety of engineers and their backgrounds. Activities we did that day included an engineering quiz, topics around AR and gaming as well as virtual reality (VR). The students even got a chance to hear about life at university from a representative from Loughborough University.

The newest activity I’m involved with is signing up to be a mentor on CyberMentor. CyberMentor is Germany’s largest online mentoring programme for girls in STEM and was started in 2005. Mentee and mentor pairs are assigned based on common interests and backgrounds and the mentoring takes place over a duration of 12 months. The mentee and the mentor can regularly exchange experiences via e-mail, a chat and a forum and they are encouraged to work with other pairs on small STEM projects.

Getting into some virtual reality

Immersing in virtual reality

I’m really glad that I participated in I’m an Engineer as I’m pretty sure all of the other wonderful experiences mentioned above wouldn’t have happened otherwise! Back at school, I was never exposed to STEM professionals myself and I really see the value of doing STEM outreach activities to challenge stereotypes about these subjects. I’ve written more about the importance of outreach and engagement for the HSSMI blog.

I very much encourage other STEM professionals to get active in outreach activities as it not only helps the students but also oneself in developing new skills and more confidence. It’s great to know that one of my colleagues is becoming a STEM Ambassador herself based on the experience with the students coming to HSSMI and we have already two other visits to local schools planned in spring (one of them being this Friday!). I have to say, I’m highly excited about going back to Merton Park Primary School this year to see what the students are working on! 🙂 I’m also looking forward to taking part in more online Careers Zone events with the I’m a Scientist team.

Acknowledgement: I would like to thank the I’m an Engineer team for all their effort in putting such a great platform together! I also would like to thank Nicola and Debs from Merton Park Primary School for the wonderful experiences we have made so far and for providing the pictures to this post.

November 2016 Winner Blogs

After every event we ask the winning engineers to write a short blog to be sent to all the students in who took part in the zone. It’s a great way for the engineers to reflect on the previous two weeks, thank all the students for voting for them and talk about their outreach plans for the prize money.

If you’re an engineer keen to answer students’ questions, apply now for the next event happening in March for British Science week: imanengineer.org.uk/engineer-apply

Let’s take a look at what the November Winners had to say…


Richard, Apprentice Zone

richardsymondsYou students have kept us on our toes for the last two weeks. There has been a great variety of questions, from the strange to the common, from politics to space, to fiction to engineering. We have covered a lot. I enjoyed answering every question. I truly hope some of the advice given is helpful, I hope you find your careers as enjoyable as I find mine, who knows you may be taking part in this passing your advice on to others (best part of engineering I think).

Read more

James, Diagnosis Zone

jamesclarkeThe live chats were completely bonkers, and were – without a doubt – the most fun part of the whole thing, and led to some of the best (and also cheekiest) questions. Engineers, sign up to as many of these as you can! You won’t regret a single one.

Read more

Leon, Motor Zone

leonwechie

I had a great time talking to young students across the UK about what being an engineer involves! They asked questions about my PhD work, what it entails from the pros to the cons, what inspired me to become an engineer, the best possible advice I could give to someone who wants to pursue a career in engineering, and many other questions! I was very enthusiastic about relaying my knowledge, experience and key information that I knew they would benefit from hearing at their young age. The majority were very receptive, some captivated, and so it’s a pleasure knowing that we were able to encourage some of the world’s future engineers!

Read more

Will, Space Zone

williamavisonThis is such a good event to expose students to people that they may not have ordinarily have met. Thank you to all the students that participated, for all your questions and showing an interest. I hope you were able to learn a lot during these sessions and get some feedback that you would not have been able to get otherwise. Science and Engineering is accessible to everyone and although you may struggle with it from time to time, I can promise that it is always worth it.

Read more


Are you up for the challenge? Want to show what engineering is really about… Or just want to join in the ‘bonkers’  live chats…

I’m an Engineer, Get me out of here runs every March, June, and November. It only takes 2 minutes and one sentence to apply!

June 2016 Winner Blogs

After every event we ask the winning scientists to write a short blog to be sent to all the students in who took part in the zone. It’s a great way for the engineers to reflect on the previous two weeks and thank all the students for voting for them.

Let’s take a look at what the June Winners had to say…


Chris, Aerospace Zone

I hope the students have benefited from the last two weeks, not just from my answers but from the other participants’ answers too. I have tried to answer every question posed to me, no matter how silly, to the best of my ability. I’m sure I speak for the other participants too when I say it is incredibly enriching to see students interested in what we do and why we do it. For students to then take this new information and then desire to do it themselves is the reason we do these outreach events.

Read more

Mark, Environment Zone

You could feel the energy and enthusiasm with question after question as the students found their confidence and their inquisitive Inner Engineer was awoken. Questions of Who, What, When, Where, Why and How were fired to all of the Engineers, probing and questioning, the inner workings of being an Engineer.

Read more

Laura, Health Zone

When I logged in to the chat session for the first time and waited for the class to come online, my heart was racing and I don’t think it slowed at all as I was typing furiously, trying to answer as many questions as possible as best as I could! Afterwards, I had to take a 10 minute break to cool down! That said I really enjoyed answering your questions, both through the chats and ‘Ask’. It was clear that you’d thought carefully about what you would like to find out and I hope the answers that myself and the other Engineers posted have broadened your feelings towards engineering and its place in our world.

Read more

Matt, Water Zone

I’m an Engineer has been a really enjoyable experience for me. Even after having read some of the previous engineer’s comments about how fast questions came in I still felt surprised by the sheer volume of questions that we got. It felt like I didn’t stop typing for the whole time and the thirty minutes went by very quickly. I was really impressed with the range and depth of questions asked and I could tell some of the students were really thinking about different aspects of the project; could I use my work to help people in other countries where water quality is poor? Does my process produce any harmful by-products?

Read more

Eloise, Kilogram Zone

The questions were fantastic and some of them were pretty tough. Describing my PhD research – which most of my friends don’t understand – forced me to work harder on how I communicate complicated ideas. Great preparation for my viva exam!

I thought it was great how bold students could be over online chats. It helped me too – I felt like I was just chatting to friends about what I do rather than being ‘judged’. I’m unbelievably grateful to the people I’ve met in my career so far who’ve taken time to talk to me about their work, asked about my own aspirations and offered advice. I took part in I’m an Engineer! in the hope that I could do the same in return. So, if the chats have inspired one person to consider engineering as a career or challenged their assumptions of what an engineer is like, then that would be incredible!

Read more


Are you up for the challenge? Want new inspiration for your research… Or just want to chat about the science behind Death Stars…

APPLY NOW TO TAKE PART


I’m an Engineer, Get me out of here runs every March, June, and November. It only takes 2 minutes and one sentence to apply!

March 2016 Winners

After each event we ask the winning engineers to write a short blog that is sent to everyone who took part in their zone. It’s a chance for them to reflect on their I’m an Engineer experience and thank the students for their questions and votes.

Let’s take a look at what some of the winners from March’s zones had to say…


Ross, Food Zone

One of the questions I was asked the most is “what inspired you to be an engineer?”. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do when I grew up. Some people do, and that’s ok, but others don’t. My advice is to do something you’re passionate about and you’ll find something that’s right for you.

Ryan, Fuel Zone

I imagine from the student’s perspective it would have been difficult to ask questions in a face-to-face scenario like “How much do you get paid?”, “How does what you do help the world?”, “Why don’t girls do it?”, “What do you really dislike about engineering?”, however I’m really glad the students asked these questions because only the students know which considerations are the most important to them when deciding their career choice.

Stuart, Robotics Zone

What has really struck me is how forward thinking and conscientious the students have been, with a large focus on their questions being about how we, as engineers, contribute to society and the future of the planet. This has really made me think about the work I do how it impacts society as a whole.

Andrew, Metre Zone

The whole experience has been fantastic, I really enjoy engaging with you and answering your engineering/technology questions! I had exactly the same viewpoint when I started my career in engineering (when I picked GCSE Engineering in secondary school!)

Matt, Surgery Zone

My sincere hope is that a few of the students came away from the event thinking that engineering could be for them even if they had possibly never considered it before.
I wanted to try and prove that we engineers aren’t stuffy brain boxes and that we have a sense of humour, a good camaraderie and are just normal folk.

If you think you can help inspire the next generation…Want to explain how you contribute to the future of our planet…And want a fantastic experience…

Apply now to take part in the next event

I’m an Engineer, Get me out of here runs every March, June, and November. It only takes 2 minutes and one sentence to apply!

Reflections on SME funding

As part of our funding agreements in recent years we’ve been trying to diversify our funding streams for I’m an Engineer and I’m a Scientist. Inevitably one suggestion for additional funding has been to approach companies employing engineers and scientists.

The obvious first step was to approach those companies known to support STEM engagement. BP, Rolls-Royce, BAe, GSK, Pfizer, Thales etc. It wasn’t simple. Finding the right people at the right time wasn’t simple. Creating a proposition that worked for them wasn’t simple.

It was put to us that these companies are constantly being asked to support projects and that we may have more success with SMEs.

So we picked a few upcoming zones (Health, Space, Production and Energy) and set a researcher a task of finding 100 SME’s in each field where the CEO had given their contact details on their website. We figured that if they did that they were more likely to be interested in engagement and online engagement in particular.

We sent a letter and some flyers to each CEO asking them to encourage engineers to sign up. The response rate was not spectacular at about 5 engineer signups per 200 letters sent.

The quality however was good. The engineers participated fully and had a variety of experience. But participation was only part of the conversation. We wanted to turn participation into funding. Next step was to talk to a couple of decision makers in a couple of the companies that had provided engineers.

Both were CEO’s who were very, very supportive of STEM education and outreach. They give up their own time for it and encourage their employees to do the same. Both had companies which relied on brilliant cutting-edge engineering to be a success. They were both research intensive companies in a start-up phase. But being a start-up meant that there was no spare cash in the company and investors wouldn’t allow discretionary spend on activities like outreach.

And there lies the rub.

The companies that rely most on cutting-edge research and be supportive of outreach activity are more likely to be unable to fund outreach activities because of unprofitable stage of their corporate lifecycle. It’s only once they become less research intensive that they are able to afford to financially support these types of activities.

Obviously we’re dealing with a tiny sample and the support shown by them means we will continue to approach SME’s for engineers and continue to sound out funding opportunities. But it isn’t going to be a simple solution for funding diversification in the near future.