Dreams of sending robots to space sparked my interest in Engineering
Our FERM (Female Engineering Role Model) of the month, Abbie Hutty did not have an interest in engineering right from the get go. Although fond of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects such as physics, she shared the common misconception that engineering, “basically meant being a car mechanic or fixing boilers”. Reports suggest that women are lost to a potential career in engineering at the age of 16, when A-level and vocational subject choices are made. Men dominate the British engineering industry, with women accounting for only 7% of the professional workforce and less than 4% of engineering technicians. In fact, the UK has the lowest percentage of female engineers in Europe.
Fortunately for Abbie, the Beagle II mission to Mars was in the news that year, and it was mentioned that “British Engineers were building it”, which sparked her imagination. The idea of designing robots to send to outer space sounded like an awesome job to her. With her new found excitement for engineering, Abbie further investigated what engineering really was, and found all sorts of exciting fields such as medical implants, robotics, space, and green energy, all fields that the UK excelled in. During her AS year she took part in EDT’s Engineering Education Scheme and also participated in a Headstart course at Birmingham University, which gave her confidence in her decision to study mechanical engineering.
Abbie has always had a knack for creativity but also thoroughly enjoys active sports. She describes activities like swimming, skiing, kite-surfing and ballet as “therapeutic exercise, which clears my mind”. Not only is she creative in her job role as a ‘Senior Spacecraft Structures Engineer’ at Airbus Defence and Space, she also applies this creativity outside of the workplace in hobbies including cartooning, crochet, origami, pyrography, and baking.
Proud of her contributions to the Mars Rover developed by Airbus, Abbie is also keen on STEM outreach work and public engagement to encourage and mentor more young people to think about careers in STEM. She also firmly believes educating and inspiring teachers and parents is just as important, as it contributes to the overall solution of bridging the skills gap in industry. Abbie uses her experience and what she used to think engineering was as an example to encourage young people to do their research and better understand engineering, and to access resources and opportunities available to them.
The UK is in great need of more engineers as an additional 87,000 graduate-level engineers are needed each year between now and 2020 to meet economic demand. Abbie states, “Our challenge is not just to inspire students to study the right subjects, but to educate their parents and teachers in what engineering is and what it means, highlighting great engineers regardless of gender. Some of my personal engineering heroes are men, so it’s not like women can’t be inspired by male role models and men by females”. It is no secret that women are underrepresented in engineering as the industry struggles to recruit a diverse workforce. However encouraging more females into industry with schemes such as Engineering Education scheme and Headstart are perfect examples of what can be done to make a difference.
Do you believe that more should be done to attract underrepresented groups into STEM careers? Get in touch with EDT contact us to find out how you can get involved and make a positive difference.