“I didn’t know girls could be engineers!”

Northeast schoolchildren experience the world of engineering at the University of Sunderland and meet the next generation driving the industry forward.

Pupils from three regional primary schools – Seaview Primary in South Shields, Tudhoe Colliery in Spennymoor and Thorntree Academy in Middlesbrough – were invited onto St Peter’s campus to take part in the special interactive Engineering Day.

The event was designed to inspire an interest in engineering among schoolchildren and to discover more about what the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) profession can offer.

As well as a host of activities including a campus tour, and an electrical circuits workshop, the children were invited to quiz the latest generation of engineers helping to shape and transform their industry.

Lucy McDine an Engineering Degree Apprentices at the University of Sunderland shared her experience of the profession, with one excited young girl commenting after the session: ’I didn’t’ know girls could be engineers!’.

As an apprentice, Lucy spends one day a week studying on campus with the rest of the week training in the workplace.

Lucy, 21, from Wallsend, a Safety, Health, Environment, and Quality (SHEQ) Lead with Advanced, a world-leading specialist fire equipment manufacturer based in Newcastle, said: “This event was a positive way to gather an insight into engineering from another angle. The children and I talked about different engineering pathways, qualifications, and my work and experience at Advanced over the past five years since leaving school myself.

“The children took an interest in electronics and were able to talk about their knowledge of fire safety equipment in more detail at the end of the session.” 

Dave Knapton, Principal Lecturer and the Engineering Academic Team Leader in the Faculty of Technology, gave a presentation to the young audience about the history of engineering in Sunderland, starting with shipbuilding all the way through to the advanced manufacturing and computer science work that happens at the University today.

He says that the day’s activities gave a flavour of engineering as a career choice. The pupils understood how engineering impacts everything around us and is vital in increasing sustainability, advances in healthcare and improving the lives of people around the world just as some examples.

He added: “It was fascinating to hear the questions they asked our students and engineering team, we covered such issues as the increase in use of artificial intelligence, how difficult problems can be solved, what inspired us to become engineers and lots lots more besides. Throughout the day they were able to create some electronic circuits and create their own inventions to solve world problems.”

One of the teachers at Seaview Primary commenting on the day, said: “The Engineering Day provided an invaluable experience to our children. Not only were they exposed to the world of engineering, some of our children now aspire to become engineers when they are older and have hopes of attending the University of Sunderland. The children loved every activity, from interviewing engineers and hearing of their experiences and steps to success, to exploring circuits and touring the campus, with a special visit from the robotic dog! Our children felt so lucky and were incredibly excited to broaden their knowledge of engineering back at school.”

The Engineering Day was organised by the University’s Widening Access and Participation Team as part of outreach work with schools and colleges, offering pupils and teachers access to a wide range of events, activities and helpful resources, tailored to different needs.

The activities and events are designed to support pupils from all backgrounds, raise aspirations and give them the information they need to make clear choices about their future, as well as offering encouragement towards their journey into university.

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