Article Source: IMechE
Partly funded by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, the I’m an Engineer: Stay At Home programme enables school students to gain access to and have their questions answered by qualified engineers working across multiple industries.
By giving their time and experience, contributing engineers are able to inform and inspire students to become the next generation of young engineers.
We caught up with one of our members, Kate Davies to find out how she has been using the platform, what she has enjoyed and how the questions she received have helped re-evaluate current engineering processes.
Q: Please let us know a bit more about you!
Kate Davies (KD): I’m a Production Scheduler for QinetiQ, based on their Haslar site. I started working for them back in 2011 as a Design Apprentice then advanced and developed my skills further from there. During my time with the company, I have been given many great opportunities including completing my work based learning degree and going on various site visits both within the UK and abroad.
Over the last eight years, I have also been involved in STEM both in my work time, first as a STEM Ambassador, then STEM Site Lead, and in my spare time, as the current Regional Education Officer for the Wessex region of the IMechE since 2018. This has given me the opportunity to work with many different schools and platforms to help promote STEM to the next generation of engineers.
Q: Please tell us about your experience using the I’m an Engineer: Stay at Home platform
KD: I was invited to join the platform by a STEM contact and thought I would give it a go as it was unlikely that I would be getting out much due to the COVID situation. During the sign-up process the company verified that I was an engineer which I found encouraging as you never really know who you are talking to on the Internet.
Once signed up, I created my profile filling in answers to various questions, ranging from my previous experience, through to my favourite singer or band. I then started to receive emails to let me know that students had asked questions that could be answered. Though not all where specifically relevant to me and my background, there were many fun and interesting questions. I was able to sign up to take part in online text chats with specific schools, which are monitored by members of the company as well as teachers from the schools.
Overall, it has been a very positive experience and I am looking forward to working with them again next year.
Q: What has been the most useful aspect of the Stay at Home platform for you and why?
KD: One of the most useful aspects of the platform is the fact that you can provide support from anywhere with an Internet connection. There’s no need to actually attend the schools and as such it is easier to engage in STEM outreach with a reduced time impact. I have at times found myself with a spare hour, which I’ve been able to utilise on the platform, either replying to questions, or speaking with schools from all around the country.
Q: What element/s would you like to see on the platform in the future?
KD: I would love to see a section where engineers can share technical challenges with the students or practical exercises. These could include things like brain teasers which students can answer or activates which can be done in the home/school without the need for a STEM ambassador on site, possibly to include video instructions and downloadable.
Q: What was the most interesting question/s you got asked by students?
KD: I think that one of the best questions I was asked was “Do you sometimes have to cancel a project because it is getting too complex or too expensive?”
In all honesty, the answer was yes; at times projects do need to be cancelled or put on hold. However, it really made me think about whether in my current work we actually do this correctly. For example, while working as a designer, I’m sure that there were moments when decisions were made that effected projects in a major way, but it almost felt too late to change them once complete. Ultimately, when you get to the end of the project it is much easier to look back and see the mistakes that were made and the true impact. It’s also easy to say “we should have stopped this”, but at the time did we really know?
These types of questions make me realise that no matter the experience I have, seeing my job though different eyes will enable me to continue my development and support growth.
Q: What would you say to anyone who hasn’t had the chance to use the platform yet?
KD: It’s not too late! We all have a responsibility to help support future generations and this is an extremely easy way to do it. You can spend as much or a little time as you wish and it will still make a difference to a young person.
Thank you to Kate for providing your feedback on your experiences and for engaging with so many students through the platform. The initiative closes on 20 July, for more information and to get involved, visit the STEM At Home on our website.