I am Naomi Green, a mechanical engineer and biomedical engineering researcher at the University of Birmingham. I’m passionate about sharing my experiences as an engineer with children and showing them what a fascinating and rewarding career engineering is. As a country we need more children to choose engineering as a career and we desperately need more of those children to be girls.
The engineering industry in the UK is facing a skills shortage with an extra 50,000 engineers needed every year between now and 2020 to meet demand. When you factor in that only 5% of engineering professionals are women you can see why it is so vital to recruit more women into the industry. As a female engineer I think it is my duty to get out there and act as a role model for girls and open their eyes to what engineering is. Taking part in outreach activities is also extremely rewarding and great fun!
I have just taken part in a fantastic outreach project called I’m an Engineer Get Me Out of Here (IMAEGMOOH) and was lucky enough to “win” the Health Zone. I wanted to share my experiences with you all in the hopes of encouraging you to take part as well.
IAEGMOOH is an online outreach activity where school students interact with engineers through live chats and an online forum where they can ask us anything. In the second week students vote for their favourite engineer to win a coveted IMAEGMOOH mug and a £500 prize to spend on outreach and public engagement. For those of you who are scientists there is also a larger sister event called I’m a Scientist Get Me Out of Here.
Over the two weeks 20 engineers engaged with a total of 7500 students, from primary and secondary schools all over the UK. The event was great fun and the children asked insightful and often funny questions. It was clear to me that during the event the students started to understand more about our job roles and that we even inspired a few to consider a career in engineering. I asked one primary school class if they wanted to be engineers and if so what kind. One child replied that when he grew up he wanted to be one like me. I have to admit my heart melted a little and it made the hard work worthwhile!
I was thrilled and really honoured to win, as the other engineers in my zone had fascinating jobs and also worked very hard to make the event a success. Taking part has benefits for the engineers involved as well, not just the students. I’m sure my communication skills have improved significantly because it is a real challenge to answer complex scientific questions in a way students will understand, particularly when you are working at a fast pace in the live chats!
Not only did I inspire a few future engineers they also inspired me. I’m in the middle of writing my PhD thesis, and talking to the students about my work reminded me why I love my research and has spurred me on to finish. I am planning to use the £500 to develop a new practical outreach activity called Accident and Emergency Engineering Challenge. It will give students the opportunity to design a device for fixing a broken bone; taking them through the engineering process from designing the device to testing it.
So I lay the gauntlet down to those of you with an interest in outreach to see if any of you can continue to fly the flag for all the ScienceGrrls out there and win the next event in June. If you want to know more, have a look at my profile on the site and my “winner’s speech“. You can also contact me on twitter @NaomiGreen for more information and some top tips! To apply, fill out this form.