The first annual Provost’s Engineering Engagement Awards celebrated and recognised the hard work, commitment and passion that people at the faculty of UCL Engineering put in to sharing their research, teaching and learning with children, young people and schools through faculty-led and departmental-led programmes and activities but also through partnerships with industry, government and external organisations. Organised by the UCL Faculty of Engineering Sciences, this is the first time that the awards have taken place.
Welcoming staff, students and stakeholders from industry, government and organisations to the awards, Professor Michael Arthur (UCL President and Provost), recognised the plethora and breadth of engagement activities taking place at UCL Engineering, stressing the need for effective engagement and the importance of celebrating achievements in this area. Professor Anthony Finkelstein (Dean of Engineering) speaking next, cited the faculty’s commitment to creating an ethos where engineering is seen as intrinsically worthwhile and relevant to pupils from all backgrounds, promoting diversity, gender equality and above all being inclusive. He stressed the importance of meaningful and sustained engagement with young people to get them to understand what it is that engineers do, and why they do it. Professor Dame Wendy Hall, gave the keynote address stressing the importance for the UK to recruit the brightest young people into engineering and science, including new talent from families and schools who might never have thought about engineering as a career. Jane Butler, Vice-Dean for Enterprise (Engineering), introduced three young speakers to the awards, Miss Muslima Miah, Mr. Lampojan Raveenthiranathan and Mr. James Lawford, whose inspirational speeches about their experience as participants at engagement programmes at UCL Engineering, truly highlighted the importance of effective and meaningful engagement.
Six winners shared the prizes awarded by UCL President and Provost, Professor Michael Arthur, the Dean of Engineering, Professor Anthony Finkelstein and the Vice-Dean for Enterprise (Engineering), Jane Butler. In addition to the cash prize, winners of awards in each category received a unique hand-made award created by the Institute of Making team especially for these awards. Award winners and two runners-up in each category were awarded with Certificates of Excellence in Engineering Engagement.
Laszlo de Brissac (Department of Computer Science) won in the Undergraduate Student category for his outstanding commitment in promoting computer science to young audiences. As the elected president of UCL Entrepreneur’s Society with over 2000 members, Laszlo has not only been involved in engagement activities himself but has also influenced the wider student body to participate in such programmes and events. He has led teams to create teaching resources for the new coding curriculum, delivered lectures on the latest developments in technology, developed innovative software engineering workshops and acted as a mentor to many young people in schools.
Gemma Bale (Department of Medical Physics) was the winner in the Postgraduate Student category. Her broad engagement work includes being a student mentor, taster lecturer and Brilliant Club tutor while also delivering workshops and masterclasses. Gemma’s ability to create materials with impact and to communicate less exciting concepts such as physics and optics in an engaging way is impressive. Her work with the Brilliant Club has brought UCL’s ethos of research-based learning to younger audiences in Key Stages 4 & 5, stretching them to their academic limits, building up their knowledge and pushed them to research topics that are not normally taught until undergraduate level.
Ian Seaton (Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering) was the winner in the Professional or Support Staff category. Ian greatly influenced the successful delivery of a new and innovative summer school in partnership with the James Dyson Foundation Summer School, working with academic staff and research students and giving the entire team much needed support and confidence in its implementation. The way Ian engages with young people to get them to try and ask the right questions and also not to be scared to try things is invaluable to their learning experience. He deeply cares about young people and believes in their potential, always suggesting ways to inspire them and spark their imagination on engineering.
Shade Akinmolayan (Department of Chemical Engineering) was the winner in the Research / Academic Staff (Grade 6 & 7) category. Her passion, dedication and energy in promoting STEM subjects and engineering is inspiring. She is the UCL Student Society of Women Engineers outreach officer, In2Science mentor, STEMNET Ambassador, STEMette panellist and the lead organiser in the development of a new Chemical Engineering summer school. Shade is a strong role model for young people, especially girls and young women, supporting girls interested in science throughout school hosting interactive assemblies for the younger years and UCAS talks for the older students.
The Fleming Society (Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering) won the Research Group or Team category. They designed and delivered a truly innovative programme, the Engineering After School Clubs for Year 12 students across London. The student-led programme promoted academic rigour while enabling young participants to develop problem-solving and practical skills on electronics and programming, highlighting the relevance of engineering to the subjects taught at school in a fun, creative and informative manner. Students acted as mentors to pupils significantly changing the attitudes towards engineering, especially for the girls participating at the programme.
Benn Thomsen (Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering) received an award in the Research / Academic Staff (Grade 8 and above) category. His long-term commitment, passion and energy as well as his drive in transferring knowledge of engineering is remarkable. He has been directly or indirectly involved in every single engagement activity in his department and beyond. Over the past year, Benn has spent many hours, tirelessly developing and delivering innovative hands-on engineering activities that enthuse as much children and young people as they do their parents and teachers. During the sessions themselves, his enthusiasm, quality of his engagement and constant attention to let the participant find most of the answers by themselves, have made both young audiences as well as teachers and industry partners speak so highly of his work and its impact.
In addition to the six awards, Steve Hailes (Department of Computer Science) received the Outstanding Contribution Award award for showing true leadership and excellence in his engagement with young audiences and for transforming lives of many young people across the UK, influencing the future of the coding curriculum; working with local councils, communities and government to change perceptions on computer science and engineering; developing innovative teaching resources and activities that promote creative and critical thinking. His dedication, hard-work and inspirational leadership have influenced staff and students in his department to develop and deliver numerous activities and teaching resources. He has significantly contributed to changing the stereotypical perceptions around STEM subjects in young people – especially girls and young women – their teachers and parents on a national scale.