Penrose Engineering Residential
In July, three students from Vandyke, Nicole Cameron, Rebecca Roberts and Hannah Gafa, were accepted onto the Penrose Engineering Event for girls at Loughborough University. Only 50 places were available and Vandyke was the only school with 3 students who applied and were accepted.
The aim of the event was to raise interest and knowledge of engineering subjects and careers through a team project and a series of academic workshops and talks. The students worked in small groups, supported by Student Ambassadors, to develop a presentation linked to the engineering challenge of sending a robot to a different planet. Students participated in a variety of academic talks and workshops which helped them to develop solutions for the issues that would arise in visiting a new planet. The students also took part in activities that gave them a sense of what life might be like at a University; staying in a University Hall on campus and eating in the dining rooms.
This event was funded by ex-RAF test pilot Captain Desmond Penrose who is passionate in his belief that the UK needs more female engineers. “Why shouldn’t I donate some money for the furtherance of women in engineering?” he says. “This country needs more engineers. It’s a privilege to donate this money in the name of my mother, Margaret Penrose. She gave me so much support in the absence of my father, who was away in the Army during the war and who encouraged my ambitions.
According to the National Centre for Universities and Business, the proportion of young women studying engineering has remained virtually static since 2012. “We need to enhance the possibility of women choosing engineering over other subjects,” says Captain Penrose. “The preconceptions that females can’t make it in STEM subjects should be put completely to one side, it’s just rubbish. I’m certain that if we can get more females involved in engineering it would be for the furtherance of our country.” Just 9% of the British engineering workforce is female, says the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) – well below other European countries such as Latvia, Bulgaria and Cyprus who lead with nearly 30%.
“The role of women in STEM is growing, but it’s still light-years behind what it should it be.” says Kirsty Wilkinson, manager of the University School and College Liaison Team. “Desmond’s donation will be extremely useful for bridging that gap and we thank him for his generosity.”
“Over the last 10 or 15 years we’ve had a diminution of the sciences in education,” says Captain Penrose. His tone is one of genuine concern. “We used to be an industrial nation and I feel that we are not as industrial as we used to be – especially in the field of engineering.” Now, Captain Penrose, 87, is looking to the future of British engineering and he sees women as big part of that journey.
One of the students on the event had this to say: “Recently, we were given the chance to apply for the Penrose Project in Loughborough for a two-day residential trip to study engineering and explore Loughborough’s extensive facilities. We had to produce a short university-style presentation, whilst also learning about different aspects that we would need to complete the project. The project involved us drafting a rocket with the materials needed, energy used etc. Staying in halls and eating in the university restaurants, we got a taste and understanding for university/campus life. This was a fundamental trip to help understand the opportunities available in the engineering field and get a feel of life in university.”