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Girls Into Engineering

Four of our Year 9 students attended a course held at Loughborough University, run by the Smallpiece Trust, dedicated towards the endeavour of getting girls interested and involved within engineering. We are really proud of Gabi, Laura, Bethan and Katie and they share their experiences in the following article.

We are also very grateful to Mr Adrian Wigham from GE Power Conversion, a supporter of the school who kindly facilitated this opportunity for the girls. 

A Smallpiece Trust Course at Loughborough University

Between 16th and  18th  August, Gabi, Katie, Bethan and I attended a course held at Loughborough University, run by the Smallpiece Trust, dedicated towards the endeavour of getting girls interested and involved within engineering. In total, there were five of us from North Leamington School, with the addition of our friend Claudia, who was also in attendance. This course was nothing short of an educational opportunity of a lifetime.

We all greatly enjoyed our stay, and collectively agree it kindled a new interest for engineering within us. I think I speak for all of us to say that over the course of the three days, we not only created friendships with people who before had been utter strangers, but also learnt an immense amount.

On the first day, we all arrived upon campus, at the James France building; there we were greeted with a brief overview of what our stay would entail, what we would learn, and what the outcome of the course would be for us. We were all assigned teams and spent the first half an hour learning about who we would be working with, whilst also completing team building activities. At this point we all knew next to no-one else in our teams.

We were then introduced to our first project, which, in our case was working with Leonardo to developing a remote-controlled rover, which could tour unknown landscapes, and sense any potential dangers. For many of us, this was our first experience of using circuit boards, so it was incredibly informative when we coded, built, and tested our circuitry.

We each had our own room and ensuite as well as the communal kitchen/living area.

Something else unexpected that we took away with us from the course was the experience of living and working on a university campus - whether it be listening to careers lectures, or going to food halls for breakfast, lunch and dinner. (We can also confirm that university food is far superior to that at school!) 

 An example of a breakfast meal we ate.

After a day packed with activity and much discussion, we took our luggage and headed up to the accommodation. Thankfully, we all shared a flat, which meant the communal living space was used very well. We then completed an evening activity, which consisted of  watching a film in the lecture hall, before going back to our accommodation for some well-earned rest.

Our second day began with breakfast, which then presently moved into our morning briefing, where we listened to an address shared by Leonardo. In the first half of the day we finished the project we had begun on the previous day, which then culminated into finally putting our code, circuitry, and sensors to the test by test driving our rovers through an adventure course, while checking the signal sent and received by the computer.

A buggy completing the course.

We brought the project to a close and then ate our lunch together in the food hall. Following lunch, we were then introduced to our next project; hosted by GE. The task was to create a prototype product, designed specifically to align with one of GE’s many engineering sectors. Gabi and I worked upon the aerospace side, while Katie, Claudia and Bethan worked respectively in medicine and energy, or on the other aerospace team.

Gabi and I particularly enjoyed coding and setting up the hardware on the Arduino and developing individual ideas for our project. Coding really pushed us to our limits, forcing us to solve problems and persevere - after solving a persistent issue we kept bumping into in our code, it really felt like a huge reward for the code to run smoothly. When it finally all connected and lit up the circuit board Gabi and I had spent so much time on, it felt like such a magical moment.

A finished GE prototype.
Setting up the Arduino code.

Having people from GE there to support us was such an asset. Having someone who could guide us in what to do next, who actually had real-life experience with engineering made the whole journey so much better. Even when we weren’t seeking help for our projects, we all had discussions with them regarding their jobs, and it gave us such a huge insight into engineering. We had so many informative discussions, and their words really made us think of all the pathways engineering could initiate for our futures. 

After the day’s activities came to a close, we walked back to our accommodation together. After reaching our shared flat, we began getting ready for the formal dinner. Once we were all ready we walked to the venue of the dinner. The evening was filled with food, quizzes, and speeches. We all enjoyed the company of those sat upon our tables, from either Leonardo, GE or the Smallpiece Trust, and loved listening to the moving stories shared within the speeches. It was great talking and taking photos with the GE staff at the dinner and it was so nice meeting the people who had secured our places upon the course and talking to them about our experiences.

The lecture theatre where we had all of the speeches, talks and addresses throughout the course.
Ready for the formal dinner (pictured from left to righ: Gabi, Laura, Claudia, Bethan and Katie).

As we brought our final project to our close, and presented our prototypes to our groups, we realised just how fast the two days had whizzed by. Before we knew it, we were sitting in the lecture theatre for the last time and listening to the last address delivered to us by Leonardo and GE.

To sum up our writings, this course was nothing short of incredible. We met so many new people and learnt so much - It really opened our eyes to countless future prospects. Finally, Gabi, Katie, Bethan and I want to extend such a huge thank you to GE for sponsoring us. Without their help, none of us would have partaken in this incredible experience. We look back upon our stay at Loughborough in such fond light, alongside all those we met there.

Thank you- from Laura, Gabi, Katie and Bethan (North Leamington School Y8 2022)