You can’t be what you can’t see - Dundee students inspire the next generation of engineers
Published on 19 July 2023
Secondary school pupils have been getting stuck into engineering activities as part of a University of Dundee initiative to raise local aspiration and increase diversity and inclusion in the sector
Students from the University’s School of Science and Engineering are delivering workshops and activities over the course of two weeks to pupils from underrepresented backgrounds as part of the EMBEDD Summer Engineering Experience.
Over 20 pupils from local schools, including Morgan and Baldragon Academies, have been involved in activities, including a hacking session and building robots and rocket landing towers.
The group of university students, who are also from underrepresented backgrounds, have been trained to develop and deliver the programme in the hope of inspiring and encouraging local pupils into further education, specifically within engineering.
Hayyaan Bashir and Leia Ainscough, who both recently graduated from the University, have co-led the project and explained the importance of having visible role models.
Hayyaan, who graduated in Biomedical Engineering, said, “Hopefully they can see a bit of themselves in us. We all come from a variety of backgrounds and have taken different routes to get into engineering, and I think that’s so important for the younger ones to see.
“I was lucky to be a part of a similar programme when I was younger, but when I look back at photographs, there’s a sea of white faces, then there’s just me. We have such a diverse group of both students and pupils in the EMBEDD Summer Engineering Experience. I would have loved something like this back then – it's incredibly important to see people who look like you and have similar experiences.”
Leia, who graduated in Computing, agreed. She said, “I had nothing like this growing up. In high school I was the only girl in my advanced computing class. It’s nice to see so many girls involved and engaged in this programme.
“The importance of the EMBEDD project is having role models that look like you in an industry where you might not get to see that day-to-day, especially to see female role models in the field, whether its students or professionals. It’s really helpful for the younger ones to be able to say, ‘there's someone that looks like me’.”
Women, disabled people and individuals from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds are consistently underrepresented in both the pursuit of engineering qualifications and in the engineering sector. The EMBEDD project aims to change this narrative by showcasing diverse role models and bringing together a group of younger people with similar interests.
Sixteen-year-old Jessica Paterson, who is in S5 at Baldragon Academy, said, “It’s been great. We see people who have been at the same point in life as us who have gone on to do engineering, and who will go on to do something really good in the world.
“I’ve made friends with other people that I didn’t know before who have the same interests. In school, not everyone enjoys the same classes or likes what they’re doing, and that can sometimes be distracting. When everyone around you likes what you’re doing, you can enjoy it better and get more involved.”
The EMBEDD (Engaging Minoritised Beneficiaries in Engineering Diversity Development) project was proposed and developed by Dr Margi Vilnay, Senior Lecturer at the University’s School of Science and Engineering, in partnership with the Association for Black and Minority Ethnic Engineers - Scotland (AFBE) and Equate- Scotland. The project was funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering.
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