A level student Lily Kate France, one of the vloggers for Tomorrow's Engineers Week.

Vloggers set to challenge perceptions of engineering

A-level student Lily Kate France and Nayeeb Chowdhury, a chemical engineering undergraduate, have been chosen by EngineeringUK as vloggers for Tomorrow’s Engineers Week 2015.

Lily Kate France, a maths, physics, history and textiles A-level student at Runshaw College, Lancashire, and Nayeeb Chowdhury, a chemical engineering student at University College London, have been chosen by EngineeringUK as ambassadors and vloggers for Tomorrow’s Engineers Week 2015, which runs 2-6 November. They will be creating  YouTube content which they hope will dispel the myths and challenge perceptions around engineering among young people. Here they talk to E&T about what we can expect and why they love science and engineering.

How were you chosen as a vlogger?

LKF: Through my blog, basically. I’d written a blog post about #TEWeek14 last year, so when the vlogging opportunity came up, I was asked if I’d like to apply. Obviously I jumped at the chance.

NC: This was an opportunity advertised by the university so obviously the competition was fierce. Being a UCL student, the calibre of candidates I was up against was sky high. However, after submitting a video myself illustrating why I thought I was the right fit for the role, I had an interview and finally managed to secure the position. 

How long have you been a vlogger?

LKF: I’ve vlogged for Tomorrow’s Engineers for a couple of months now. As for personal vlogging, I’m only just getting into that one. I’ve loved the vlogging experience so far and would really like to film more of my day-to-day life and fun adventures.

NC: This is my first time. Whilst it’s quite scary, it’s also so much fun. 

What sort of science and technology content will you be showcasing?

LKF: The kind you wouldn’t expect. So far I’ve visited a wide variety of industries, including food, oil and gas, mechanics and tech systems and I’m due to visit theme parks, wearable technology and energy companies.

NC: We’ve gone down the route of trying to display as much as we can. Although this is not possible (as engineering tech is so diverse) we’re trying to cover as much ground as possible. For example, this can range from looking at how an engine is designed to illustrating the safety engineering features that go behind building a roller coaster. 

I hear that you hope to bridge the gap between young people and STEM subjects. What will be the main challenges of doing this?

LKF: Showing people how there isn’t too great a gap to bridge. I believe that most young people are already interested in STEM, to an extent, without even realising it. As a result of this, many students don’t choose STEM subjects because they don’t see themselves finding it useful (and fun!) in later life. Addressing misconceptions about where STEM can lead to and the type of people that are involved in STEM is the biggest challenge, but the most important part.

NC: The main challenge in trying to bridge this gap will be identifying the best way to present our material. I say this because although there are some people who may enjoy reading about a science-based subject, many more may want to actually see it to try to get a clearer picture behind it. 

Do you feel science and tech subjects are/were made as interesting as they could be during your education?

LKF: That’s a difficult question to answer for somebody who’s been interested in science since day one! I also find the theoretical aspects of physics amongst the most interesting, which naturally can’t be made into practical lessons when you’re learning about space. That said, I think my teachers did a great job of relating science to everyday life when possible, and being honest about the parts that were literally just dry facts to learn for an exam.

As for technology, I didn’t find ICT particularly engaging in lower secondary school and was more inclined to choose humanities to accompany my sciences, a choice I don’t regret. However, since then, ICT has been expanded to include computer science and programming which sounds really interesting.

NC: Definitely! I guess I was pretty lucky in the sense that I’ve had very engaging teachers throughout my high school and college, who made sure no lesson was ever boring. The most interesting lesson I recall being where the teacher managed to get hold of some liquid nitrogen, allowing us to drop items in it, watch them freeze then smashing them into a million pieces. 

What are you most excited about, being vloggers for Tomorrow’s Engineers Week?

LKF: Meeting so many people. It’s great having the chance to meet such a variety of personalities in a variety of careers and have a sneaky peek into all the different industries that I’d otherwise know very little about.

NC: Personally, I’m excited to see the student response to the Tomorrow’s Week material. Lily and I have been working hard, so to see them gain this valuable insight and appreciate the world of engineering will give me a feeling of fulfilment knowing my hard work has paid off. 

Will you work together or from your respective locations?

LKF: As we’re based in opposite ends of the country most of our videos are separate, but we’re making some collaborative ones in London, too. We’ve each filmed a couple of videos at home, but most are out and about across the UK.

NC: On most projects we work individually. However, we do have a few collaborations that I’m really excited about. Vlogging can get a bit lonely at times.

When did you first become interested in engineering?

LKF: I’ve always had a thing for number-crunching and space has always fascinated me (how can it not?), but my interest in engineering came about rather unconventionally. I’ve always been very artistically inclined, too, and it was designing and writing my own knitwear patterns, which requires a lot of maths and 3D visualisation, that made me consider the overlap. Technical + design = engineering.

NC: I guess this would probably be since a young age where I’d love to completely dismantle something then attempt to bring it back to life. Alongside my interest in maths and chemistry, my school held a careers event and after filling out a few questionnaires engineering was the career path that was flagged. I didn’t want to take any chances and leave the rest of my life in the hands of a simple survey so I then decided to attend a few university engineering taster days. After doing so, this reinforced by interest for engineering and here I am today: a happy (but slightly stressed) engineering undergrad.

What is it you love most about engineering?

LKF: I love how physics explains how everything in our day-to-day lives work. I remember a lightbulb moment (pardon the pun) when learning how fluorescent lights work in AS physics and realising that those discrete energy-level differences in nuclei explain why different colours exist. Physics makes sense of everything, which is why it’s my favourite.

NC: The part of engineering I like the most is the fact that questions presented won’t have an immediate answer. So it’s like a puzzle. You have to literally take a few moments and just step back from the situation and then try and solve the problem step-by-step. I really enjoy this aspect as not only does it allow you to get to the answer in so many different ways, but it’s also quite fun trying to solve a problem.

Having said that, it’s not fun when you’ve been presented with a 25-marker question that you go through step-by-step and because of one small but fatal mistake you’ve made at the start, it leads to the incorrect answer. But I guess that’s the beauty of it. 

What are your career aims and ambitions?

LKF: Who knows? I plan to start either a maths/physics or engineering degree next year, which will hopefully give me a solid foundation. I’d love to work in engineering, though in which industry I’m yet undecided. I strongly believe that being opportunist and keeping an open mind is best and that a fixed career dream at 17 isn’t paramount.  With engineering there are so many open doors that choosing one and sticking to it isn’t necessary, at any age.

NC: My career aims are to finish off my master’s in chemical engineering, and then go with the flow. This is because we’re living in a world that is constantly changing. So depending on how severe environmental issues become, I aim to pursue a career in sustainable technology and climate change.

Head to the Tomorrow’s Engineers Youtube page to watch the vloggers in action.

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