“I’m an Engineer”, and its counterpart “I’m a Scientist”, are two-week long competitions inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers. I was lucky to enough compete in “I’m an Engineer” this November. During the competition, we took part in incredibly fast-paced live chats with schools and answered questions posted on an online forum by pupils. Questions ranged from our careers, to what we do in our spare time, to what we would do in a zombie apocalypse!
The competition is divided into 6 zones which focus on different areas of Engineering outside of the traditional descriptions. Zones included this November were diagnosis, apprentice, space, and motor zones. Pupils vote for their favorite and engineers are voted off one by one in week two – an incredibly nerve-wracking process for all of the engineers involved. The eventual winner of each zone wins £500 to spend on public engagement. Students can also win prizes for asking interesting questions – the best questions in the Space Zone won students places in a live chat with British astronaut Tim Peake.
In the March 2016 competition, an average of over 16,000 students participated in each zone. Over 30% of the schools involved were from widening participation areas. Pupils from remote areas such as the Highlands had a chance to engage with people in careers they might not have considered before. The competition brings STEM fields to life for students, and allows all students to contribute. It also allows engineers and scientists to develop their communication skills and share their work with the public, generating important feedback from people with a very different view on the subject.
As a bioengineer, I competed in the diagnosis zone, sponsored by the Wellcome trust. The competition encourages primary and high school students to see that Engineering can be applied to more than they might have imagined. After the daily vote-offs in week two, I made it into the final day of the competition, where I eventually came joint second. I am incredibly proud of this result, and even more proud that there were students on every live chat who told us that they were now considering a career in a STEM field, an incredibly encouraging outcome!
This article was written by Dawn Gillies and edited by Hans-Joachim Sonntag.