Ruth Amos - Female Engineer and Inventor of StairSteady
Ruth Amos is a British entrepreneur and inventor of the StairSteady - an aid to enable people with limited mobility to use their stairs confidently and safely. Ruth designed this as part of her GCSE resistant materials project as a response to her teachers challenge to design and aid for people with limited mobility to use their stairs. Ruth won the 2006 Young Engineer of the Year award in Britain with her idea. She was also Britain's youngest person to be on Management Today's '35 Women under 35' and winner of the Women of the Future 'Young Start' award.
What motivated you as a young girl to go into engineering?
I never started off wanting to be an engineer, but when I won Young Engineer for Britain for my GCSE resistant materials project it threw me into the world of engineering. I discovered a whole world I never knew existed and was so excited by it.
What inspired you to create StairSteady, and did you ever think you would start your own business?
I never set out to set up a business, the product was first deigned for my teachers father who had, had a stroke. After becoming Young Engineer for Britain the product got a lot of publicity and people wanted to buy it.
What challenges did you face with your business?
I had no idea where to start, I had never studied business, but was lucky to have people who gave me time and to let me ask questions. Having a brand new product that doesn't fit in an existing category (what actually is a StairSteady?) still can be challenge. Note: if you don't know what the StairSteady is then have a look at www.stairsteady.net
What is the best part of your job?
I am lucky to have many aspects to my job, I get to speak at lots of events, and see my GCSE project being sold internationally. I have also been able to start new ventures and projects. One of my favourite is a project set up with another Young Engineer for Britain award winner, Shawn Brown, called ‘Kids Invent Stuff’. Each month we set a different challenge and 5-11 year olds send in invention ideas for us to make- we have made a custard firing superhero suit, a flaming piano and a crazy car contraption. You can see the test of our latest build here. The aim is to inspire the next generation of engineers.
There are many preconceived stereotypes about engineering being a male dominated role. What are your thoughts about this and the gender gap in engineering?
Looking back I realised that a lot of that was about how I perceived engineering and how I saw it in the media at the time, I loved Scrap Heap Challenge and Robot Wars but a lot of the participants were male and the females often just presented. This was one of the driving factors behind Kids Invent Stuff, we wanted to show that women could make and build. We really want young people to feel that they could become engineers. I think we still have a way to go, it is about showing good female role models, allowing children to have positive interactions with engineering and showing them that this world of engineering can and should include them.
What advice would you give to girls who want to go into engineering?
Just do it! Discover what part of this vast world of engineering you love and get involved. Study it, make things, learn things and be part of it. Engineering is a part of everything that we see around us, from the way we live, to the products we love to the way our society works. If you want to make a difference, to make the world a better place than this is a great place to start.
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