Over 30 gifted and talented 14- and 15-year-old female physicists, from three local schools attended the launch and immersed themselves in the enticing world of engineering.
The day began with the construction of aircraft wings, replicating the roles played by female aviation engineers during the First World War. The girls assigned project managers, designers, production staff and planners to deliver their constructions. They were then encouraged to dig deeper to identify pioneering engineers and scientists, with lost heroines being reclaimed such as Maja Mataric, Hedy Lamarr and Katherine J. Blodgett
Local organisations QinetiQ and Farnborough Air Sciences Trust supported the event with sessions on aircrew safety, wind tunnels and flight dynamics. Laleham Healthcare provided their mechanical engineer, Bath undergraduate Lucie Culliford, who delivered an engaging session on Astronautics.
Lucie commented: “I am passionate about engineering. It gives me a real sense of pride when I have designed and made something. It can also astonish people when you know how things work, such as aircraft. I find aerospace engineering particularly interesting. It has a lot of history, but recent history. It was 66 years from the first powered flight to putting a man on the moon. There will always be a need for aerospace engineering because of the commercial side. It was great to be involved in the event, to share my experiences with the next generation.”
Recent alumni mixed with the girls to share their stories, as did WES role model Charlotte Mercer, a Graduate Electrical Engineer at AECOM.
Twenty-year-old Jessica Leigh Jones delivered the keynote speech. In 2012 Jessica became the first female to win the UK Young Engineer of the Year Award for designing a portable electronic foetal contraction monitor in conjunction with Cardiff-based company Huntleigh Healthcare diagnostics. After developing a more versatile fibre optic sensor she was awarded the 2012 IET Intel Inspiration Award for Entrepreneurship and gained a further nine national awards within a 12-month period. Jessica has patent pending status for this technology and is currently attempting to commercialise it.
One pupil commented: “I didn’t realise how diverse, exciting and glamorous engineering could be; it impacts our everyday lives and provides solutions for tomorrow’s world. The impossible becomes possible.”
Dawn Bonfield, executive vice president of WES, concluded: “It has been an incredible day. Currently only one percent of engineers are female. We are committed to addressing this shortfall. The objective of this programme is to enthuse female engineers prior to A-level selection, before subject choices become limiting. It was a real community initiative with a number of local schools and organisations participating. A special thanks to Alton Convent School for the fervour and professionalism with which they embraced the initiative and all the speakers and pupils who made the day possible. “