National Women in Engineering Day at Winchester Science Centre

Winchester Science Centre was taken over by females on 23 June, all in support of ‘National Women in Engineering Day’!

 

The Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium opened its doors to over 80 girls between 12 -14 years old from local schools and a number of (mostly) female STEM Ambassadors from local companies. The idea behind 'National Women in Engineering Day' was to raise the profile of engineering to female school students and to celebrate the achievements of women in engineering.

The morning part of the day saw the girls divide into groups for workshop purposes. Matchtech, an engineering recruitment agency led a workshop asking the girls to test their creativity and teamwork in a challenge named the ‘Spaghetti Tower’. The girls were asked to create the tallest and strongest tower with just the listed items; string, spaghetti, selotape, marshmallows and scissors. Naturally, this activity was particularly popular with the girls, the top prize being marshmallows of course!

GE Aviation led two sessions, one ‘Paper Aeroplane’ challenge and in the second workshop STEM Ambassadors discussed the role of ‘Airline Data Analysts’ within GE Aviation. They also found out what they can do better than a computer!

Local technology company IBM came to work with the girls on design and thinking, giving them a problem to solve and then to develop their solution. Amongst many other fantastic ideas, the girls invented; ‘Motorised Shoes’, ‘Robot Doctors’ and ‘Underground Recycle Shoots’.

Marine engineering apprentices from BAE Systems in Portsmouth worked with the girls to build and dismantle, build and dismantle, build and dismantle large Lego ships! In the process the girls learnt key principles of naval architecture!

The second part of the morning, aptly titled ‘speed-networking’, gave the girls the chance to speak to a number STEM Ambassadors in small groups. This event was supported by all the employers listed as well as more (mostly) women engineers from Lloyds Register (experts in marine engineering). The girls were given free rein of questions to ask the STEM Ambassadors, resulting in honest and inspiring answers!

After lunch, the girls were gathered in the Planetarium for a small awards ceremony, which highlighted some of the most creative teams, followed by three inspiring talks from female STEM Ambassadors. Abbi and Stephy from BAE Systems spoke about their very different journeys to becoming female Marine Engineering Apprentices and their love for the profession. In a final inspiring push, the Matchtech STEM Ambassadors (Selina and Charlotte) informed the girls of the severe shortage of engineers in the UK and the number of companies who want to attract more women to the industry.

Following the thank you’s and goodbyes, the girls were treated to a bespoke show in the Planetarium which included tweets from women astronomers about how much they enjoyed their work!

The organisers of National Women and Engineering Day and Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium had clear goals and objectives for the day and after speaking to some of the young girls, it appears the aims had been met:

‘Today has changed the idea of what I thought engineering was. It is actually much more creative than I knew.’

‘When you hear ‘engineering’ you think of buildings and men in hard hats, but it is a lot more than that. Today has given me a different perspective.'

‘Engineering never occurred to me before but now I know it is an option.’

The Women’s Engineering Society (WES) have put together some inspirational posters which encourage young women to consider engineering. For more information to raise awareness of engineering opportunities for girls, and to download the posters, visit www.engineergirl.wes.org.uk