In April 2018, Strathclyde’s Interconnect Society and FemEng (Glasgow University’s Female Engineering Society) organised a collaborative, educational, week-long project to upskill female engineers. The first of its kind student-led initiative was open to engineering students from the University of Glasgow, University of Strathclyde and Glasgow Caledonian University. The project week aimed to support female engineers by providing participants with the opportunity to develop their technical knowledge and soft skills, from engineering design to planning, permitting and community engagement, and to showcase expertise and facilitate networking with leading female professionals from industry and academia. The Project Week could tackle any topic which bridges the many facets of engineering, and so this year selected to focus on the topic of renewable energy – and wind energy in particular.
The project ran from Tues 3rd to Monday 9th April and there were 15 participants in total (7 female) representing mechanical, product design, aerospace, civil engineering and civil and environmental engineering undergraduate streams representing a mix of UK and international students. The students formed four teams, where possible mixing up students from different degree programmes, years of study, and institutions. The task for each team? Designing a wind farm.
Over the first four days participants received semi-structured guidance from 9 expert mentors, all women working in STEM representing the Universities of Strathclyde and Glasgow, SSE, Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult, and Mott MacDonald. These mentoring sessions, held alternately at Strathclyde and Glasgow University, offered the students insight into technical design aspects, wind resource assessment, siting and energy yield, social and environmental impacts, project management, planning and budgeting. The groups were encouraged to consider these factors in the selection of their site (from 6 pre-determined locations) and in their project design.
On the final day, following a networking lunch at SSE’s Glasgow office, the groups presented their wind farm proposal to a judging panel comprised of four mentors. The designs put forward by the student groups were superb. Each team impressed the audience with their consideration of a broad range of challenges and innovative ideas in tackling social and environmental concerns and energy storage. The quality of work and creativity was outstanding, particularly given the need for team members to juggle time demands (such as jobs, coursework, and – of course – hefty exam preparation) and for participants to stretch beyond the boundaries of their own engineering specialisms.
Despite tough competition, the winning team stood out by exceeding the judges’ expectations in a broad range of criteria, displaying a detailed understanding of wind farm technology and its challenges, and demonstrating high quality presentation and collaborative skills. Well done to winners Sara Quraishi (2nd year Mechanical with Aeronautical), Uzair Rind (3rd year Civil Engineering), Awwal Abubakar (4th year Mechatronics Engineering), and Lewis Murray (5th year Mechanical Engineering), all University of Glasgow students. The team were awarded £100 from Equate Scotland and offered opportunity to participate in work experience days at Mott MacDonald.
And with that, the Project Week concluded. The week had brought together engineering students from University of Glasgow, University of Strathclyde and Glasgow Caledonian University, brought together women working in STEM subjects related to wind farm engineering, and had brought together students and professionals. The student participants enjoyed the week, reporting that they valued the chance to deepen and broaden applied cross-disciplinary knowledge, collaborate with students of other disciplines, be creative, and gain insight into the skills diversity within engineering professionals.
The intention is to learn from the experiences of the 2018 project Week to refine future events organised by the Interconnect Student Network which could tackle a range of topics. Massive well done to the project coordinators, engineering student and women in STEM ambassadors Hannah Houston (University of Strathclyde Mechanical Engineering 3rd year student and Interconnect Student Champion) and Brogan Gauld (University of Glasgow, Mechanical Engineering 4th year and President of FemEng and Interconnect Student Champion) for establishing the initiative and leaving a legacy that can be built on for future years, supporting future female leaders in engineering.
The 2018 Interconnect Project Week was financially supported by Equate Scotland, FemEng, SSE and the Universities of Strathclyde and Glasgow. Interconnect (soon to be renamed The Equate Student Network) is the only network for women studying science, engineering, technology and built environment at Scotland’s Colleges and Universities.
Written by Dr Jennifer Roberts- Knowledge Exchange Associate
Civil & Environmental Engineering, University of Strathclyde