My path to engineering - Holly Farrow, CIBSE Patrons Arkwright Scholar

My journey into engineering began with my application to the Arkwright Engineering Scholarship in Year 11. The Scholarships are awarded to 16 year old students who are interested in an engineering-based career, and seek to support the next generation of leaders in ‘engineering, computing and technical design’.

Over the Christmas holidays, I completed an online application outlining my achievements and projects so far. I wrote about the chair I had designed and made with 52 biscuit joints and 9 sets of dovetails, and how the process had challenged my problem solving abilities. I also wrote about my interests in the backstage management of school productions, and the different sets and stages I helped to build.

The application asked for examples of where I had shown leadership, so I wrote about a Christmas wreath making session I ran whilst volunteering at a local youth club.
The application encouraged me to ask myself where I had shown creativity, leadership and practical ability. Writing about my experiences enthused me and reinforced that this was the career I wanted to pursue.  

Next came the technical design aptitude test. I was required to solve 2 complex problems, challenging my scientific and creative sides. It pushed me to think of solutions to concepts like using rainfall in the UK to make electricity for household appliances.

I was then invited to an interview hosted by Loughborough University. I had to speak for 15 minutes about my GCSE Design Technology project, my interests in stage management and set building, and my career aspirations. The interview, with two professional engineers, felt different from anything I had done before; they were keen to hear about what I could bring to their profession, and how I was specifically interested in the design of buildings and structures. It was important for me to show my personality so Arkwright could pair me with a sponsor that was the best match.  As we talked about the project and discussed the reasons behind the decisions I had made, I found myself learning and seeing my projects from different perspectives.

I was grateful to be one of the 425 students to be awarded the Arkwright Scholarship in 2017. I am sponsored by CIBSE Patrons who were paired with me due to my interest in the built environment.
In November 2017 I was invited to the awards ceremony at the Institution of Engineering and Technology in London where I met my sponsor, and we talked about the opportunities available to me.

I subsequently undertook work experience at Westlakes Engineering in Cumbria, where I had my first experience of the life of a structural engineering consultancy.

When speaking to a female engineer, I found that she, like me, chose engineering for its mathematical and practical applications. She inspired me and built my confidence by telling me engineering wasn’t black and white and there is so much creativity.

I am now in my first year of A Levels taking Physics, Design Technology, Maths and Further Maths. In my DT lessons we have started our major design project, and I have chosen to solve a real-life problem based around my interest in theatre management and set building. I came across the problem of props storage and display whilst working on my school production of Hairspray, so I am redesigning the concept of a props table. Drawing from personal experiences for my research means I can use focus groups and conduct interviews with people that have knowledge of the theatre environment.

Looking forward to university encourages me to do things that push myself. In March I built a 3D printer that arrived flat pack with no instructions. I found and followed a silent video - the eight hours of construction were worthwhile, as I challenged myself to understand the electrics and technical construction of a 3D printer.

In April 2018, I was invited by my sponsor to the Patrons annual lunch at the House of Lords and to give a presentation about my experiences and future aspirations. This was a unique opportunity to gain contacts and listen to the stories of leading professionals and was extremely beneficial.

The support Arkwright has given to me on my path to engineering is invaluable. I highly recommend the scholarship scheme to anyone looking for a career with creativity, practicality and the experience of real-life problem-solving. 

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