Have you seen Apollo 13? I know it's a Hollywood blockbuster with an A-list cast but I watched it when I was 12 after a visit to Nasa in Florida and I knew then that I wanted to be an engineer. There's a bit in the movie where there are potentially deadly levels of carbon monoxide filling up in the space ship. They can't change the filters as they only take square cartridges and the ones the astronauts have are round. The engineers at Nasa literally have to work out how to fit a square peg in a round hole. So they get a box of different equipment they know is available on the spacecraft and sit around a table together to solve the problem. I remember watching that thinking how creative, inventive and important their jobs were. It opened up my mind and I realised that I had taken everything for granted. There is so much that is engineered in our lives and I then wanted to know how things were put together and why they worked.
I am now at Oxford University studying General Engineering and come September I will start my second year. At school I studied a wide range of STEM subjects including A-levels in maths, further maths, physics and chemistry. My favourite subject at school had always been maths. The modules I enjoyed the most were the mechanics ones where I could see how maths was being applied and meant I could visualise the problems. I organised a week's work experience at an engineering company to start at the end of my Year 12 studies. This exposure further cemented my love for engineering and the CEO took me round to other engineering firms to show the sheer variety of jobs and careers available. It was very inspiring.
I'm lucky because I have an Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) Great Exhibition Scholarship - part of the IET's Diamond Jubilee scholarship prizes - so I do get £1,500 a year for each year of my four year course. There is a lot of support for those training to be engineers so I would encourage anyone who is thinking about a career in engineering to research it.
Aside from the finances, the scholarship has opened up a number of societies that I have been able to get involved in. One that I have particularly enjoyed is Stemettes, an organisation which encourages and inspires women to enter STEM industries. Without the scholarship I may not have been aware of this fantastic group where I have learnt so much and met other young aspirational engineers.
The work that organisations like Stemettes and the IET are doing to encourage more girls into engineering is important. Only 6% of the UK workforce is currently female and that has to change. National Women in Engineering Day is all about celebrating the wonderful women who work in the sector and encouraging girls to see modern engineering as creative, inventive and fun.
Someone recently asked me what advice I would give to a girl who was thinking about studying to be an engineer and my answer is simple - the same advice I would give to a boy - there should absolutely be no difference as it's got nothing to do with gender. If you love maths and problem solving and have a creative side then there is something you will love to do in the engineering sector, there is after all so much variety.
I am looking forward to this summer as I will be doing a placement at Jaguar Land Rover which is exciting, I will also be talking to my old school to discuss what it takes to study engineering. Hopefully I will also get the chance to do a talk at one of the IET's Engineering Open House Days. I would recommend you check it out as venues will be throwing open their doors to families, showcasing what engineers get up to.
I'm conscious that I didn't tell you if the NASA engineers were able to create a solution to the problem in the spacecraft. If you know the story of the Apollo 13 then you'll know the answer. If not, then watch the movie, it's great. Be warned though, it may make you want to be an engineer!
To find out more about the IET's Diamond Jubilee Scholarship please visit here: www.iet.org/diamond
To find out more about Engineering Open House Day please visit here: www.engineer-a-better-world.org
To find out more about National Women in Engineering Day please visit here: www.nwed.org.uk