For a number of years, a key point on the SVAS Education Plan has been what we can do to help tackle the chronic shortage of women in engineering. We were delighted when the Collection agreed to host an event on International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) on Friday 23rd June. The Collection’s High Flyers event was an activity driven after school careers event very much aimed at inspiring and engaging young ladies with the myriad of opportunities available to them in all fields of engineering and enabling them to meet a diverse and eclectic mix of role models.
The attending companies varied from local companies such as Hitching based civil engineering consultants Stomor and West Anglia Training Association to international companies such as Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems, FE and HE establishments such as Bedford College and Coventry University and associated organisations such as Aviation Skills Partnership and RAeS. The event was not exclusively aeronautical, with civil engineering, electrical engineering and chemical engineering companies booked to attend, but it did have a strong aviation flavour.
The focus was very much on inspiring young ladies into a career in engineering and all exhibitors actively engaged with visitors. Plenaries were delivered by a diverse mix of young and old; students through to industry experts; hobbyists through to a national champion / record breaker.
Not only was the SVAS was pleased to provide behind the scenes support for this event, but a number of SVAS ground crew also attended, sharing their experiences of working at the Collection on display days and how the experience has had a positive impact on their career choice.
Initial feedback from visitors and exhibitors has been extremely positive and we look forward to this event becoming a permanent fixture on the Collection’s calendar.
The SVAS was approached by the Moth Club earlier in the year with a view to helping them select candidates for Teague Challenge flights – these are flights at their Charity Flying Day that are sponsored by Moth Club members with a view to inspiring the next generation of pilots. Armed with fifty free flights, our Student Section Coordinator Matthew Studdert-Kennedy and Collection pilot Scott Butler set about designing a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Outreach programme around the history of the DH Moth series.
Matthew then had the unenviable task of contacting all the schools and arranging convenient dates and times when he and SVAS ground crew stalwart and de Havilland Educational Trust Chair Ian Oliver could go in to the schools. Over the next six weeks Ian and Matthew (with assistance from Scott and Moth Club Chairman Stuart McKay) presented to over a thousand children, who then went on to take part in competitions set by their schools to determine who would win the flights. Tasks varied from designing a homebuilt glider from recycled materials to giving a powerpoint presentation to fellow students on Bernoulli’s Principle and ensured it was those who really engaged with the task who went on to win their flights.
Extremely challenging conditions for the Charity Flying weekend meant it was never going to be possible to fly everyone, but a sterling effort from the Moth Club saw 80% of the pupils who attended taken up for a flight.
The event is best summed up by one young prize winner who went on to write “I was completely buzzing for ages afterwards, because I’d never had an experience like this before, and I’d conquered my fear of heights, and my fear of the unknown, and couldn’t stop telling everyone how much I loved it and wanted to do it again.” We look forward to supporting the event again next year.