Inspiring the next generation of engineers
When speaking with many of my colleagues about what sparked their interest in engineering, a common theme of inspiration emerges. So many of us were inspired by a teacher, family friend or an encounter with an inspirational engineer in our formative years.
My engineering ambitions were cemented when I met a chartered engineer while on holiday in Turkey. I found her fascinating and she definitely played a part in inspiring me to follow an engineering career. If i can manage to influence even a single building engineer in this way, I will feel that some sort of debt has been paid forwards. For this reason, I am a big advocate of engineering outreach in all its many guises.
In 2013, I supported the Dyson Lab, a series of undergraduate teaching workshops at Loughborough University's Woolfson School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering. Devised by Paul Maynard, one of the teaching staff in the department, the lab gives first-year engineering and design students a chance to get hands-on with some of Dyson's newest technology and to complete an exercise in materials selection. The aim is to get students thinking about which materials are used for key aspects of the Dyson product and the engineering requirements such as toughness, stiffness, manufacturability and visual appearance that drive those materials choices. Dyson supplied whole vacuum cleaners and separate parts of the same products for the students to feel and play with. My role was to stimulate group discussions around the function of each part within the broader product and encourage the students to identify key properties and narrow down the possible materials from the datasheets provided. Afterwards, many of them came to ask specific questions about my job and other engineering roles at Dyson.
I hope the lab gives the students a glimpse of the sort of career their studies could lead to in the future. For Dyson, the benefit is exposure to students who will be graduating with exactly the academic credentials the company looks for in new engineers. I hope I am passing on that same enthusiasm I saw in the eyes of the anonymous woman I met on holiday.
For anyone interested in inspiring young materials, minerals and mining engineers in a more business-focused way, the IOM3 YMC is promoting a year of industrial visits per year. If your business would be willing to host one of these visits, please email the Committee.
Materials World, June 2014