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INTERNATIONAL WOMEN IN ENGINEERING DAY: CAUC PARTICIPANTS SHARE THEIR STORIES

23 June 2020

Today, 23rd June 2020, is International Women in Engineering Day (INWED), an international awareness campaign which raises the profile of women in engineering and focuses attention on the amazing career opportunities available to girls in this exciting industry (INWED).

In November 2019, the IET reported that 1 in 2 UK Engineering and Technology firms are concerned that a shortage of engineers in the UK is a threat to their business. In addition, and slightly more of a concern, is the fact that the UK has the lowest percentage of female engineering professionals in Europe with only 12.37% of all engineers in the UK being female (Women's Engineering Society).

When considering the desperate need for the next generation of engineers and the clear gender inequality in the industry, we count ourselves extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to compete in the Greenpower Challenge – a charity organisation whose main aim is to bridge this gap; inspiring ‘young people around the world to excel in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths’.

Despite the male dominance in this industry, we are actively encouraged, supported and inspired by our technology teacher; Mr K Gornall and Engineering Mentor Mr R Kenney to break down the stereotypes, push the boundaries and view engineering as the dynamic, interesting and rewarding career choice that it is.

To celebrate INWED, and in honour of the theme ‘Shape the World’, we’ve decided to take you on the journey of a CAUC team member – with a little help from those that truly understand the positive impact both CAUC and Greenpower can have on your personal development and career aspirations.

In 2002, following a Greenpower promotional leaflet landing on Mr A Beardmore’s desk (the then Engineering teacher), CAUC was founded as an exciting opportunity to inspire young females to consider a career in engineering – nurturing their love for the subject and highlighting just how diverse this industry can be.

Emily Wakeford - First CAUC team captain, 2002 – 2006: “When we set up CAUC in 2002, “Complete And Utter Chaos” was exactly how it was!  Looking back, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.  At the time we had no idea what it would grow up to be – we were just a bunch of like-minded girls who hung out in the tech suite at lunchtimes and Greenpower gave us something brilliantly fun to have a go at.  Build an electric car?  What, one you can sit in?  Then race it for 6 hours, in one go?  Yes please!”

“Reflecting on the unbelievable fact that the team is now 18 years old, it is so exciting to think about how many students have now been part of the team.  I am sure each one of them has taken different things away from their experience, but for me it was being able to try something completely different with my friends.  We brought in teachers, parents and neighbours with useful skills and/or bags of enthusiasm which resulted in race days where anything could (and often did) happen.  We didn’t qualify for the final in the first year but were allowed in as a wildcard entry; from then on, we never looked back.”

18 years later, the team has gone from strength to strength. Despite the team doubling in size our core values remain the same. Inspiring young females to consider a career in engineering remains at the heart of everything we do.

Starting Sandbach High School at the tender age of 11 years old, you are made aware of the huge number of extra-curricular activities on offer. Heading into yet another assembly, your eye catches the gleaming red of Dylan…is that a car?! Intrigued, you hear all about an engineering club called CAUC. What even is engineering? Is that something I can do? Although, if it involves building a car to race round a track – count me in, sounds fun!  

Within weeks of joining the team, you catch the CAUC bug. Each Tuesday evening you are exposed to and offered the opportunity to join in with CAD Design, Aerodynamics, CFD Testing, working with composites, manufacturing, car maintenance and race strategy to a name a few. Your misconceived conceptions of Engineering are quickly eliminated as you realise there is so much more to the industry.  

Who knew that there were so many different disciplines to engineering…and it could be this exciting!!

Lara Stanwell-Hughes – Age 12, Joined CAUC in 2019: “CAUC has given me a chance to explore engineering more and allowed me to do what I like to do with more support. The team has inspired me to be my own person and learn more about engineering.”

A year in, without even realising, your confidence has grown massively. By repeatedly learning new concepts and manufacturing methods in a relaxed and fun environment, the boundaries of your knowledge and understanding of engineering principles is continually pushed. Consequently, your confidence in lessons grows as you subconsciously bring and develop the skills learnt in CAUC back into the classroom. As you start to study distance time graphs in maths, you realise just how familiar these look to the car performance graphs we reviewed with Richard last Tuesday. You begin to draw similarities between the real life applications used within the Greenpower project to topics learnt on the national curriculum.

Your team mates quickly become like family – looking out for one another, building each other up and seeing how working to each other’s strengths results in a common goal being achieved!

Imogen Rietkerk – Age 13, Joined CAUC in 2017: “Taking part in Greenpower and being a member of CAUC has inspired me to continue doing what I love: getting involved in as many clubs/ competitions surrounding STEM to increase my knowledge of the area and meet more people with similar interests and hobbies as myself. It has given me an insight into the different jobs and roles I could do in the future and opened up many opportunities such as F1 in Schools. I have been massively influenced by being a part of this competition as I hadn't encountered experiences like these before; the benefits are amazing with the skills I have learnt improving my work in lessons specifically science and technology.”

Katy Goodwin – Age 14, Joined CAUC in 2017: “To me INWED means the chance to have a new path opened up to me. It gives me a chance to pursue something I’m passionate in and gives me a chance to make a difference. The opportunities that Greenpower provides mean that I am able to grasp more complex engineering from a younger age and have experience in the engineering world. CAUC in particular has given me access to a community of people with similar interests and viewpoints which in turn has created a group of very close knit friends that support each other through everything.”

Rachel Garrett – Age 14, Joined CAUC in 2017: “Getting interested in Engineering and joining CAUC has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. It has grown my confidence and taught me so much. I have always been a perfectionist but it has taught me how to fix mistakes and learn from them without letting them hold me back. One of the best things about being an aspiring female engineer is watching people (often boys) underestimate us and regret it. At my first Greenpower race I remember overhearing two members of an all boys team complaining about the ‘greedy all girls team who got all the awards’ and it made me smile because from their reactions, they didn’t see it coming! I would love to have a career in engineering and I look forward to seeing the amount of female engineers grow.”

Suddenly, you are no longer the newbie. Instead, you begin to take on a leadership role. Mentoring the younger generation coming through; helping to develop and shape their love for engineering. Teaching others makes you realise just how much you’ve learnt over the years yourself without even realising, all whilst having an enormous amount of fun and getting to hang out with your best friends!

Cate Rook – Age 15, Joined CAUC in 2016, Assistant Team Captain: “Being part of a Greenpower team like CAUC has opened numerous doors of opportunity and inspiration. For myself personally, I am hugely grateful for all the knowledge and experience that I am able to participate in and be a part of. From the designing, to the manufacture, and finally to the racing, I have learnt so many unique things all whilst being around a supportive team. Trying all these new things can be challenging, but everything pays off when you get to see the car, that you have put so much effort into, pass the chequered flag. There is nothing more rewarding and that’s what INWED means to me.”

Charlotte Carrington – Age 15, Joined CAUC in 2017: “Joining CAUC has taught me not only about the process of designing and manufacturing electric cars but how to cope under pressure, resilience and teamwork. My favourite part about Greenpower is seeing an idea on paper, then become a working car on and off track.”

As you head into Sixth Form, your attention turns to the next stage of your education. Aspiring towards a career in Engineering you start drafting personal statements for university or apprenticeship applications.  With the wealth of experience and opportunities gained from participating in Greenpower you find yourself struggling to stick to the word count…what do I leave out?! What do I include? It is all so relevant!

Luke Jones – Age 19, Joined CAUC in 2013: “Thanks to Greenpower and CAUC, I have had the privilege to grow up in an Engineering environment where girls and women aren't only accepted, they are respected and at the top of their field. It has set up this generation of engineers who don't see gender as limiting factor, instead judging people on their skills and experiences alone. For me INWED is a day to celebrate the successes of women in engineering, and be thankful for the people who have paved the way for the strong and intelligent young women I have worked with these past 7 years to become the amazing engineers we all know they can be.”

Emily Platt – Team Member 2011 – 2018 , Previous Team Captain: “I was first introduced to Greenpower through Sandbach High School, where I became a member of the all-female team CAUC. Greenpower has played an important role throughout my education. I have been able to gain skills that I would not have necessarily had in a class room. Due to my experience with Greenpower, I have gone on to study Automotive Performance Engineering at the University Of Bolton. While studying I was given the opportunity to work with the TOCA Technical team for BTCC.”

In the blink of an eye, it’s time to say goodbye and embark on your next adventure. As you stop to reflect you realise how invaluable your time in CAUC and participation in Greenpower has been. Aside from the obvious practical skills, knowledge and understanding, you’ve developed teamwork, time management, resilience, perseverance, problem solving and communication. All key qualities that lend themselves to any career path – not least engineering.

 Sophie Barwick – Team Member 2012 – 2018, Reading General Engineering (Material Science) at The University of Sheffield: “CAUC introduced me to engineering as a broad and interdisciplinary subject and inspired me to study general engineering at university. Greenpower enabled me to gain many practical engineering and team working skills that have been invaluable in my degree. As well as the many skills gained, I also made great friends and met inspiring individuals, without which I would not have had many of the great opportunities I have had.”

Lauren Davis – Team Member 2006 – 2013: “Greenpower in particular has played a major part in my career journey and helped me to mould my future in engineering. Greenpower has been picked out from my CV in interviews for both university and job applications by showing how I can work as a team and solve problems even when time is short. A key skill for an engineer! Even as I progress through from team member to marshal to sponsoring company representative, Greenpower is still part of my journey even today.”

Sophie Wakeford – Team Member 2004 – 2006: “Greenpower and the CAUC team opened my eyes to the scope and creativity of the engineering industry. The thrill of race days and the thirst to improve year on year was so addictive and I now use that passion to engineer new vehicles for Jaguar Land Rover. The same ethos of continuous improvement applies and INWED provides a great opportunity to look back and celebrate our successes, the strong teams that pull together to fix the issues and the power we have to shape the world.”

Nikki Jones – Team Member 2004 – 2011: Greenpower sets out to inspire the next generation of engineers and I’m proud to consider myself one of them. I was part of CAUC throughout my time in high school and sixth form college and I honestly consider this to be one of the most vital learning experiences of my career. Being part of any team teaches patience, comradery and empathy, but being part of an all-female student team in what is generally considered to be a male dominated industry made it even more ground-breaking. Being actively encouraged from such a young age to continuously strive for your goals and to be the best you can be regardless of the industry standards, sets young women up for significant glass ceiling smashing events. The confidence and self-assurance in my own abilities that I gained from being a part of a Greenpower team has been a vital part of my personal growth.

The topic of introducing more women into the STEM subjects has always been one close to my heart and I genuinely believe that without Greenpower I wouldn’t be in the industry. Many young women aren’t aware of the possible career paths open to them in STEM subjects because they are not exposed to them at a young enough age; before subject options are chosen at the end of secondary and college education. What Greenpower does is introduce engineering and other stem subjects to children at primary and secondary school level which is of upmost importance to make sure they know the options are open to them. Of course it’s important that all children are exposed to these subjects but it is the women that are significantly outnumbered in the STEM subjects and I truly believe it’s down to lack of exposure. In a society that is working towards equality in all aspects of life, Greenpower are doing their bit towards this.

Greenpower opened my eyes to engineering and gave me the tools I needed to pursue a career in it. I’ve held a project management role in both automotive and medical industries since finishing my undergraduate degree and studying my masters whilst working. Both roles require significant organisation and problem solving skills amongst others which were both found and enhanced by my part in the CAUC team. I’ve worked with some of the top automotive and medical OEM’s in the country and it’s a pleasure to be able to say I have come from background of engineering from Greenpower and CAUC.

Emily Wakeford - First CAUC team captain, 2003 – 2006: “Being in CAUC taught me leadership and resilience skills I still pull on today.  Being calm in a crisis, cutting through the noise to give direction on the right next step and knowing how to best use your team’s individual strengths are key when working in operations.  However it also taught me how to see the bigger picture, so not only to plan for the immediate – how can we do the best we can in this race - but also develop the strategy to push us in the right direction for future seasons.  Now I find myself leading the design of our new operations system managing our supply chain at innocent drinks, and developing how it will help run our new factory – it’s a big team effort!  INWED’s theme “Shape the World” captures exactly that of which we are all capable, go and find that thing you enjoy and be the best you can be at it.  If we all do that, we will shape the world and have a great time when doing it too.”

Returning to our initial question – is Engineering something I can do? The answer - Absolutely!

With hard work, determination and the wealth of inter-disciplinary skills that CAUC and Greenpower teach you – the sky really is the limit, and you too can make a positive contribution to  ‘shaping the world’.

You can read the original blog by CAUC for International Women in Engineering Day on their website.