Kilkeel based Collins Aerospace has joined the global movement of encouraging girls to explore Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects and to consider those fields as part of their future careers, by hosting the annual Introduce A Girl to Engineering day, now in its 20th year.
Image courtesy Collins Aerospace
This year’s event, which took place on Thursday 25th February was held virtually due to the pandemic and it consisted of almost 55 participants, which included students from five local schools – Kilkeel High School, Shimna Integrated, St Louis Grammar School, Sacred Heart Grammar School, Newry High School and Down High Grammar.
Volunteers from the Kilkeel facility also attended and shared their knowledge and expertise of the field through engaging activities and discussions, as well as providing tours of products including the space suit and ejection seat. Participants were also treated to guest workshops from Time Magazine Kid of the Year, Gintanjali Rao and former NASA astronaut, Joan Higginbotham.
The aim of the annual event is to inspire the next generation of female engineers to consider the many exciting careers available in STEM fields, which are currently underrepresented by females. By encouraging girls to explore these fields at a young age, it is hoped they will become engaged, and their curiosity of the engineering roles open to them sparked.
Dr Deepa Jose, a research engineer and planning lead of the engineering event, from Collins Aerospace, Kilkeel spoke about the importance of this initiative. She said, “This is the second year engineers from Kilkeel are participating in the Introduce a Girl to Engineering event. Women are underrepresented in STEM related fields, only 13% of engineers are women today, and it is imperative to develop a future pipeline of diverse talents. I hope that through initiatives like this we can spark each girl’s curiosity, propel them forward in their journey to become our next generation of engineers and innovators.”
Collins Aerospace is part of Raytheon Technologies, an aerospace and defence company that provides advance systems and services for customers worldwide. Formed in 2020 and with nearly 200,000 employees globally they have over 60,000 engineers. As part of their core belief that they have a responsibility to change the world for the better, one key focus is on STEM and supporting educational initiatives that inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers and business professionals. This event goes some way to support that.
During the event, Engineering Manager at Collins Aerospace, Kilkeel Karen Higgins from Belfast spoke about her career: “I decided to study mechanical and manufacturing engineering at Queen’s University, Belfast as I had a keen interest in Maths and Physics in school and was a huge fan of Formula One. I was fascinated by all of the technology and speed. I loved my time at Queen’s and was lucky to be part of the Formula Student team, designing and building our own single seater race car and competing in the Formula student event at Silverstone.
“Since joining Collins Aerospace in Kilkeel in 2007, I have had many varied roles, all of which I’ve enjoyed and most of them have involved solving engineering problems. I’m currently the Engineering Manager of our Premium Cabin Business Unit. I would encourage young girls to pursue a career in engineering as it opens up so many doors. There are many types of engineering to go into – civil, mechanical, chemical as well as many others, and it is a career that is sought after in many industries.”
Stuart McKee, Managing Director of Collins Aerospace, Kilkeel said: “We were delighted to once again host our ‘Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day’, albeit slightly different this year, given that we were only able to welcome the students to our facility virtually. It was great however to see a high turnout of students attend the event, and engage with them, share our knowledge about what is involved when choosing a career in STEM and giving them advice on how to forge their own careers and future in engineering.
“These sectors are very underrepresented by females but by targeting the students at a young age, we can hopefully ignite that engineering spark. I’m very proud that Collins Aerospace is placing such a great focus on encouraging young women in to engineering.”
Collins Aerospace Kilkeel provides employment to many young people within their engineering, human resources, finance, environmental health and safety, and logistic departments. This includes apprenticeships in engineering, which support employees with their studies whilst also gaining practical on the job experience; internships; and final year and graduate support programmes.
Julie Devlin, Head of Careers from St Louis Grammar School, school said: “It was just wonderful to see how interested our young women were in all things engineering. They were certainly engaged during the presentation from the NASA astronaut and when talking about all things space, particularly given the recent coverage on the landing of Perseverance on Mars. The students really enjoyed, as did I, the tour of the products, which gave them a real insight into how things can be manufactured. It was a wonderful, informative and inspiring remote learning event delivered with passion and enthusiasm. This was a fantastic opportunity and one I would like to thank Collins Aerospace for – we thoroughly enjoyed it.”
Alan Crutchley, Head of Technology and Design at Kilkeel High School said after the event; “It was great to be asked to join in with the Collins Aerospace ‘Introduce a Girl to Engineering’ event. Giving our pupils an insight into the engineering world, and helping to inspire them to become the problem solvers of the future is a great way to inform these girls of the potential careers in the field of engineering. Thank you, Collins Aerospace.”
Collins Aerospace hosted the ‘Introduce a Girl to Engineering’ event at 55 of their locations worldwide spanning 12 countries, as part of their ‘Redefining Futures’ Corporate Social Responsibility Programme.