Rebecca Dwyer Engineers the Future!

Project Outline

As part of my pre-departure expectations for the Washington Ireland Program (WIP), I must complete at least thirty hours of public service within my own community at home here in Ireland. My public service project involved an outreach event called ‘Engineering Your Future!’ which was organised and hosted by the UCD College of Engineering and Architecture during the week of 14th – 18th May 2012.

The event was sponsored by Engineers Ireland’s STEPS program which was established in 2000 to encourage primary and post-primary students to explore the world of science, technology and engineering. The value of this program has been formally recognised by the Irish Government and is a key element of the national Discover Science and Engineering (DSE) program. STEPS works in strategic partnership with DSE to achieve its goals. The program is managed by Engineers Ireland and is supported by the Department of Education, Ireland’s policy advisory board for enterprise, trade, science, technology and innovation entitled Forfás and a number of major engineering employers.

‘Engineering Your Future!’ is an annual, week-long, hands-on event for Transition Year students (aged 15-17). My full time role in this project was to film footage of the various activities the students took part in throughout the week and to make a promotional video of the program to be put on the UCD Engineering and Architecture website (and possibly the STEPS website also) to attract more young people to apply for the program next year and to pursue a career in Engineering. As well as this, I also helped out with the program activities each day and gave a fifteen minute presentation to the Transition Year students on my experience as an undergraduate studying Chemical and Bioprocess Engineering at UCD.

How this came about

I was approached by the ‘Engineering Your Future!’ Program Director, Dr. Patricia Kieran who is also a Senior Lecturer and Senior Fellow in Teaching and Academic Development in the UCD School of Chemical and Bioprocess Engineering. She was the module co-ordinator for two of my modules in Semester 1 of Stage 2 of my course, both of which a percentage of the marks were awarded for a team-based Heat Exchanger Design Project. The final report was to be submitted in video format and I had been in charge of compiling and editing my team’s video report. I was delighted when she asked if I would like to take on the challenge of making a promotional video for ‘Engineering Your Future!’

I met the other helpers the week before the program was scheduled to begin. Dr. Kieran outlined the specific activities she wanted to include in the video and I took note of them. I then took one of the cameras belonging to the school home to familiarise myself with it before I began filming.

What I learned

During my service project, I learned many new technical skills and cultural values. In my role as camerawoman for the week, I quickly had to learn how to make people feel comfortable in front of the camera. I found it better to introduce myself and chat to them for a short while before actually filming what they were doing. This way, they acted much more natural in front of the camera. I found that once they got over the initial camera shyness, they were actually quite keen to talk to me about the different activities they were taking part in on camera, especially when I prompted them with questions such as “Can you tell me how you all came to your final design?” or “What was your specific role in the team project?”

Editing the footage took a very long time. I reduced over three hours of tape to a short five minute video. I very much improved my technical video editing skills during this time and learned how to use the software package to a high standard.

I was with the students for almost the entirety of each day during the whole week, so, naturally, I got to know them quite well. It was very interesting to see how different people work differently on a team. I found there were usually one or two people in each group who took the lead. This was fine as long as they all listened to each other.

In terms of values, I have learned the importance of all types of outreach programs. The students who took part in ‘Engineering Your Future!’ were a mix of those who were keen to study Engineering at third-level, those who weren’t sure but who were thinking about it and those who didn’t know what they wanted to do after school. The activities they took part in were an excellent means of showing them just what Engineering is all about. They learned that Engineering is an excellent degree to have for any type of job as it teaches you excellent problem-solving skills and outstanding team-working ability. These are all transferable skills which can be applied to any sort of work or life situation.

I spoke with almost all of them throughout the week and it was amazing to see how so many of them were much surer of what they would like to study in college after taking part in the program. I am a firm believer that third-level education is an essential stepping stone to adult life and I was delighted to be a small part of promoting that philosophy to the young people of Ireland through this service project. I hope my promotional video will encourage many more students to apply for the program next year and that they will strive to become budding engineers in the future.