Engineering Summer School, 2013
30th July, 2013
Two special weeks in the lives of eight teenage girls came to a close in the Parsons building on Friday 5th July, as the Engineering Summer School 2013 concluded with a show and tell exhibition and presentations by the participants. This year’s group comprised girls from Our Lady’s School in Terenure and Santa Sabina in Sutton, and was organised by Professor Kevin Kelly, director of the Engineering with Management degree and lecturer in Manufacturing Engineering.
The two weeks saw the girls engaged in hands-on engineering activities from 9:30 to 4:30 everyday, with lots of learning happening in a fun and active environment. The girls partook in a range of different types of activity ranging from demonstrations of and talks about the latest in engineering research to design and build activities. Activities were drawn from a diverse spectrum of specialities including robotic design, audio processing, bridge construction, rapid prototyping and electric cars. Favourite activities this year included learning how to write simple programs through the use of (self-built!) giant cardboard robot suits, non-newtonian fluid dynamics using bright green corn starch solutions and a demonstration of the principles of high volume and flexible manufacturing using origami.
Commenting on this year’s course, the girls had almost universal praise with an average mark of 9/10 for how much they enjoyed the course and all reporting that they were more (or much more!) likely to study engineering. Speaking of her time in Trinity, Laura Kennedy from Our Lady’s said “'I’m really glad that I did the course and think that it was an amazing experience!” while Niamh McCann from Santa Sabina and Cora Hogan from Our Lady’s were even more succinct -“It was great fun and I'm coming here!!” and “I loved it!”
The course aims to provide hands-on experience of engineering to female students by addressing a widespread difficulty that many girls in Ireland have in understanding what engineers (can) do. Commenting on this, Prof. Kelly said “Research shows that female students, in particular, have a real difficulty in seeing themselves as future engineers. They receive many subtle (and some not-so subtle) hints as they grow up that can negatively influence them. However, the good news is that we have seen that we can make a positive impact by being better at explaining what engineers do. Even more importantly, we can provide a much stronger and more lasting message through providing immersive experience. Work I completed recently on the FP7 project, ATTRACT, suggests that there is a significant boost to the retention of the ‘message’ when active learning pedagogies are used. Furthermore, the evidence suggests that the girls who have been on the programme continue to evangelise on our behalf when they return to school in September!”.
The course is now in its 5th year and a significant number of former ‘graduates’ are now studying engineering. The content has evolved over time, with feedback from current and past students used to refine and develop the activities that the girls engage in. Speaking about the development over time, Professor Kelly said “We are a world leading engineering school, and the oldest and highest ranked engineering school on this island. We have a wonderful campus, with internationally renowned teaching and research and a cohort of excellent students who are proud to be Trinity Engineers. We are also outward looking with strong linkages to many of the leading universities and industrial companies in the world. As well as the contribution of the academic and technical staff, a key role is played by our undergraduate students in their role as helpers on this programme”.