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Team oUFO at the Women in Engineering Student Conference 2019

The IMechE UAS 2020 competition will be starting in October this year, and Team oUFO have already been busy laying the ground for what we are hoping to be a successful first Open University entry.

After months of work on team infrastructure and a successful crowdfunding campaign, we have had the chance to meet in person, some of us for the first time. The Women in Engineering Student Conference organized by the Open University was the auspicious occasion that facilitated this team reunion.

This was a two-day event held at Aston University in Birmingham, which offered our female members the chance to meet other like-minded students as well as members of the academic staff and successful engineers.

We were delighted to see the interest that our project sparked and to be able to answer questions about what we are doing and why. We hope that everybody who spoke to us could feel our passion for engineering and our desire to start a new OU STEM tradition!

The conference was a truly inspiring event. The first two speakers – Faye Banks (UK Energy Policy Committee) and Nicola Grahamslaw (SS Great Britain Trust) – told the stories of their engineering journeys. These are real stories of hard work, success and failure, determination and true passion for engineering. They are true role models and we are very fortunate to have met them!

We have learned from them that building a career is not always about focusing on a timeline of achievements but rather about embracing every experience, learning from every situation and being flexible with our goals. Engineering is a vast field and we can be part of more than one industry if we understand how to transfer our knowledge and as long as we are willing to continually learn new things. Through their stories we have understood once again that being women in engineering can sometimes be tough but surely rewarding, and that we have the power to change this situation for the generations to come.

Jo Douglas-Harris, of the Women’s Engineering Society, urged us all to take action in this matter and become ambassadors for women in STEM. With only 12% of engineers in the UK being women, there is a lot of work to be done and Team oUFO are certainly proud to boast 42% female members!

All of our team members are current or future STEM ambassadors and we are very keen to show children and young people how exciting science and engineering can be. We hope that our female members can be seen as role models for young girls but also for women who are envisaging a career change.

Unfortunately, girls feel discouraged from pursuing STEM and they drop out of these subjects at every decision point. We are hoping to have a positive influence and to make a change in this respect by being actively involved in STEM activities in schools and various events.

The Women in Engineering conference gave Team oUFO a great platform to talk about our goals, achievements so far but also to encourage new talented members to join. We explained what our challenges are as distance learning students and how we have chosen to see them as opportunities to be that much smarter. We spoke about the difficulty of finding the right balance between family commitments, work and study and how we see it as an opportunity to bring life experience into the equation.

We were met with a lot of enthusiasm, interest and above all encouragement – which is the fuel mix we currently need in the run-up to the competition.

We are hoping to carry all this thrill with us into the next stage and create a truly exciting design, worthy of a great university and a great generation of engineers!

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