Collaboration to cement young girls’ interest in engineering
Published on 9 November 2021
Local primary school pupils were getting their hands dirty at the University of Dundee as part of an initiative to get more girls involved in male-dominated subjects
Women are considered underrepresented in STEM - science, technology, engineering, and mathematics - fields, making up a small percentage of the overall UK STEM workforce. The University, working with local business Empowerment Academy, are looking to change this narrative.
Staff at the University’s School of Science and Engineering invited the group of pupils from Victoria Park Primary School on-campus for four consecutive Mondays, meeting female role models in the engineering industry and completing fun activities in each slot.
During the first visit on Monday 8 November, which coincided with Tomorrow’s Engineers Week, the primary six girls were introduced to Civil Engineering and were shown how to mix colourful concrete, and create and decorate their own moulds.
“We’ve been really excited to host the girls from Victoria Park Primary School,” said Dr Margi Vilnay, lecturer within the School of Science and Engineering.
“Tomorrow’s Engineers Week is a brilliant opportunity to showcase what engineers do, what they did in the past and what we can all do together in the future.
“Collaborations like this are the way forward. We’re showing them that engineering is creative and fun, and it’s also all around us. To get these enthusiastic young girls involved in engineering at this young age is just fantastic. It's so important for society.”
During the visits, the girls are also shown some of the research being done at the University. The concrete mixing activity introduced the group to work being done that is recycling toner powder from old printer cartridges to make coloured concrete.
The visits were organised in collaboration with the Empowerment Academy for Girls, a leadership development, mentoring and training programme run by local woman Jill Duke. The programme looks to empower young girls by helping them develop their skills and interest through a variety of activities.
“This is our first STEM event and it has been absolutely fantastic,” said Jill.
“Last year when we were exploring careers with the girls, we looked at what differences we can make in the world and what roles we have to do to make these changes. STEM subjects came up in that conversation.
“Their curiosities show it’s real learning. When you make it engaging, hands-on and practical at a level they understand, you can completely open their minds.”
Rebecca Amao, a teacher at Victoria Park, added, "The children were so engaged, they’ll never forget this. It has been very useful because they are actually experiencing it first-hand and getting involved. If they know more about a certain subject, it’s easier to branch off into that field.”
The Victoria Park group will come back to the University for another three visits, exploring Biomedical and Mechanical Engineering. Each visit is designed and delivered by female engineers within the University. For the last week, an engineer from Balfour Beatty will offer a virtual site visit.
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