Exploding the myths about engineers

13th June 1997 at 01:00
Our college recently won the title Club of the Year at the Young Engineers National Finals, and people have told me that when it was announced my face was a picture of shock and amazement. That is just how I felt.

I had joined Birkenhead Sixth Form College two years earlier, and I hadn't even heard of the Young Engineers. My A-levels were in design technology, English language and history, which I'd chosen with the idea of doing a teaching degree at university. To me, at that time, engineering was an unknown subject which I merely associated with men - from the one you called to fix the boiler to the civil engineer who built bridges. I believed in all the typical stereotypes for engineering, especially: "It's a dirty job - all grease and spanners".

I joined the Young Engineers Club and learned that those stereotypes are false. I was part of a club team of seven who were set a brief by the Ford Motor Company to redesign the pedals for the Ford Escort car. We worked together through all the stages of research, design, development and manufacture and came up with the idea of a "drive by wire" system.

As part of the project, we visited the Ford factory at Halewood, on Merseyside, saw the production line and gave a formal presentation of our final design. We went on to represent the club in a regional competition, and won.

Then I was fortunate enough to represent the college at the Young Engineers for Britain national finals held at Heathrow, with fellow students Jon Holmes, Andrew Leadbetter and Steven Swift. We faced a whole day of rigorous judging, where we talked about all the club's projects and what we'd learned.

When they announced that we had won Club of the Year it was amazing. We were given Pounds 1,000 in prize money and took part in the European Engineering Experience, which was sponsored by Lloyd's Register. We spent three days in Spain visiting engineering sites and then reported back to Lloyd's on our findings.

Taking part has been a great experience. I have not only learned new skills in areas such as electronics, computer-aided design, but I gained the satisfaction of seeing a project being developed and manufactured. I also learned about teamwork, making presentations and meeting new people. As a result of the work I did with Ford, I got a week's work experience in its engineering planning department.

I have now been accepted on to the engineering foundation course at Loughborough University where I will catch up on mathematics and physics before going on to do an engineering degree. Through my experience with the Young Engineers Club I have found that engineering can take you to many places, and that it isn't a dirty job, but an exciting and rewarding one which I recommend to anyone.

I only wish I had found out about engineering earlier, so I could have chosen more suitable subjects at A-level.

Kathryn Hope is taking A-levels at Birkenhead Sixth Form College

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