Women in Engineering students inspired by Factory 2050 visit

26 June 2018

Women in Engineering students were blown away by the advanced technology they saw in action during a visit to Factory 2050 at the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC).

Female engineering students from the University of Sheffield visited the state-of-the-art collaborative research facility, which is home to the AMRC’s Integrated Manufacturing Group (IMG).

The students – members of the university’s Women in Engineering Student Society -  witnessed first-hand some of the research and innovation projects being conducted by the group into reconfigurable robotics, digitally assisted assembly and machining technologies.

The visit was organised by Serena Linley, the society’s former secretary, to give members a glimpse into how the technologies they had been learning about were being used to drive innovation and overcome manufacturing solutions for companies.

Serena, 23, has just completed the final year of an integrated Master’s Degree in aerospace engineering - specialising in materials, structures and manufacturing.

She said: “We were given an introduction to why the AMRC is here, all the different buildings and the different ways of solving problems for companies and industry. Then we had a tour and it was so fascinating. All the different cells were explained to us.”

Serena said she and the other students were in awe of what they saw at Factory 2050.

 “The range of stuff is massive. The technology being used at one end is completely different to the other end.

“It was great to see more of what is offered in terms of engineering ingenuity, work places, working environments as well as research and development and this kind of set up. This is the cutting edge. It’s in the name.

“There’s just everything going on. We’ve learned about a lot of this technology and then we came here and saw it being used for real applications.

“It’s really important to connect the dots between what you are learning, the consequences that has and how you can apply that later on. I think that’s why it’s so valuable for students to come and have a look around the AMRC.

“It suddenly becomes real and you can see the end goal.”

Serena’s path to engineering wasn’t clear cut. Her first love was flying. She joined the Air Training Corps aged 14 and her young heart was set on becoming a pilot. Unfortunately she narrowly missed the mark in an aptitude test to pursue her ambitions and decided she needed a back-up plan - university.

With that in mind she continued with her A-Level studies in mathematics, chemistry, physics and biology but as results day drew closer, she was still no clearer on what she wanted to study at university.

“I had no idea I was going to do engineering until I was frantically reading about all the brilliant engineering courses a week before results day,” she said. “It was a last minute decision but I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Four years down the line, she took her final exam on June 5, obtaining a Boeing Masters Scholarship along the way. Serena hopes to use the award to assist with future research projects such as a PhD or an EngD. She would also love to work for the AMRC.

“Since I started learning about materials and composites, I’ve really wanted to go into research and development, and testing,” she said.

“I want to work at Factory 2050. I would love it. That’s partly why I organised the visit because I wanted to see it and experience it.”

Women are woefully underrepresented in engineering, making up less than 11 per cent of the sector in the UK and with a large skills gap looming, along with the need for a more diverse workforce, there is a real push underway to inspire and encourage more people, especially women, to choose a career in engineering.

Serena is keen to see more done to encourage and educate young minds about the possibilities available to them. She added: “We want more females in engineering. Imagine all the ingenuity we are missing out on. All that intelligence and all these brilliant women out there who have not been introduced to engineering that could change the world.”

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