‘I’m an engineer…get me out of here’

Friday 29th January 2016

Stevie Wray is an electrical engineer at Culham Centre for Fusion Energy. Last year he won ‘I’m an engineer…get me out of here’ – a free online X Factor-style competition between engineers, where the students are the judges. Students challenge the engineers over fast-paced online live chats. They ask the engineers anything they want, and vote for their favourite engineer to win a prize of £500 to communicate their work with the public.

Stevie very generously (also amazingly) donated his winnings to Science Oxford to support free spaces for young people at our computing clubs. We asked Stevie a little more about ‘I’m an engineer…’

How did you get involved in ‘I’m an engineer…?’

I was made aware of the scheme by the communications team at UKAEA – here at Culham where I work. Another employee took part in 2012 and won his zone. The comms team wanted to encourage anyone interested to apply, so I did!

My favourite part was definitely the mad live chats where I was faced with more than thirty school children on the other end of a chat window, all typing questions about engineering furiously. I’m fast at typing…but not quite as fast as thirty sets of hands! As well as being a fun format to engage young people in, the live chats were great for interacting with potential engineers and scientists of the future. They could ask as many questions as they wanted and I think talking through the computer took away any reservations they might have had about talking to the engineers, so we got all sorts of questions!

Would you recommend ‘I’m an engineer…’ to other STEM Ambassadors?

I would definitely recommend it to other STEM ambassadors. It’s something that you can do from any computer so there’s no travel time involved and a lot of the event was the forum type “Ask” section which you could answer at any time. It is a great starter event for STEM ambassadors because you get time to think about what you’re saying rather than it just coming out of your mouth and wondering what on earth you said. It did take up about 2-3 hours a day for two weeks in the end, but it was a lot of fun so I didn’t mind!

And why did you decide to donate the money to Science Oxford?

The money had to be used towards communicating engineering in some way. I already volunteer as a STEM ambassador, give talks for visitors at UKAEA and I’m making a device to help communicate remote handling technologies – so I didn’t want to spend the money on enabling me to communicate engineering because I already do!

I’ve helped out as a STEM ambassador at a few Science Oxford events in the past and I can see that they’re run very well and really engage the kids they’re aimed at, so I know the money will be spent effectively! I would particularly like the money to be spent on the Creative Computing Clubs you run once a month, either to buy more cool equipment like Raspberry pi-controlled robot arms or to sponsor places in the club so they’re more accessible to more people across the region. This computing club sounds like it’s going to be incredibly engaging and practical and spark the imagination of every child that goes to it. I think the biggest challenge at the moment is getting secondary school children to consider STEM subjects as part of their futures so hopefully a creative computing club will be a great way to give some of them a way to try it out.

For more information about ‘I’m and engineer…get me out of here’ go to http://imanengineer.org.uk/2016/01/march-2016-zones

The next Creative Computing Club at Science Oxford is on Saturday 13th February – Space Alert, Blast Off!

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