After attending one of Equate Scotland’s events at Napier University, I met Joanna through networking at the event and was told all about Constructionarium which was soon coming up and Joanna thought it would be a great experience for me.  So I applied for Constructionarium 2018 and I was lucky enough to be chosen to participate on the 3 day course.  Since finishing high school in May 2018, I came across Equate Scotland online one day and thought it would be good for me to go to a few of the events they hold to build a network being a women studying STEM.  By this point I had already applied and been accepted into University and, as a female in STEM, I knew I would be a minority so I wanted to meet people who were studying similar degrees.

Growing up, my dad was a double glazing fabricator and very into D.I.Y. so I possibly had a better appreciation than others my age of how things were constructed.  This encouraged me to study Civil Engineering and learn more about STEM by going to talks and networking events.

I didn’t quite know what to expect when I first arrived at Constructionarium.  We were all welcomed on the first day and were told about the layout of the course over the next few days.  I got to know my team a bit better through working together on the group project of constructing the wind turbine and networking during lunch and breaks.  The women on the course were of all different ages so it was good to mix with everyone to learn about their own STEM pathways and work as a team.  To my surprise, there was such a mix of professional backgrounds; some women were at university or college, some worked in engineering/construction, some worked in admin or management, or health and safety.  This really opened my eyes to the possibilities and variety of areas that related to STEM in some way or another.  As a team we were given a design brief and my role within the team was regarding steel reinforcement so this was something completely new to me at the time.  I performed some calculations for the steel framework and was hit with some curveballs along the way with the drawing not quite linking up with materials available on site.  However, the challenge reflected real life construction and it was good to resolve problems as a team working to time limits.  Something I thought was great about Constructionarium was the fact that the time spent throughout the 3 days was just as weighted on actually constructing the wind turbine ourselves as the theoretical aspects as well.  For me, it was brilliant because it was a hands-on experience like no other.  Because I had just finished school when I did Constructionarium, I had no prior experience of actually working on a site.  Making the steel reinforcement framework, excavating the ground area and pouring concrete really made me appreciate the manual effort that goes in to the construction of building.  The experience was to be treated as if we were working for a company and so everyone had to sign off and on site for health and safety and my team had to organise when the machinery was available to come on site to begin excavating and thus we all had to plan activities around factors such as these.  During the course I developed my communication skills, organisation, creative and teamwork skills and my team successfully achieved the end goal of constructing a wind turbine.

After completing the course, I decided to accept direct second year entry of my degree.  I am now finishing second year at Heriot Watt University studying Civil Engineering and I have been able to apply aspects of what I learned during Constructionarium to projects in my degree.  Constructionarium provided me with the hands-on skills that I couldn’t learn from school.  I think for me, Constructionarium was a brilliant course to have done before I started university because it gave me that head start for beginning university in second year because I had missed out content from first year.  I made such good friends with the women on Constructionarium and it was lovely to work with them.

I am going on to do a summer placement this year with Peter Brett Associates which I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do if I hadn’t participated in Constructionarium.  During the 3 day course, I met Janice who is a structural engineer and she helped our team construct the wind turbine over the 3 days and helped us think about how to overcome challenges with the design and construction.  Through meeting Janice during Constructionarium, I had got in touch with her recently and she was able to offer me a summer placement with the company she works for, Peter Brett Associates.  Making these connections with people have really benefited me and opened so many doors for me with my career.  I am so excited to start my placement in a couple of months and I’m so grateful to Janice and Equate because I wouldn’t have this opportunity without them and the core skills essential for a career in STEM.

April Mackay

Constructionarium 2019 is still open for applications. The deadline is May 3rd. Apply here.