ICE STEM Ambassador of the Year: winners announced

Introducing our 2021 winner and our UK region winners who have all inspired the next generation of civil engineers. 

Jo Hartnell, ICE STEM Ambassador of the Year 2021.  Image credit: Jo Hartnell.
Jo Hartnell, ICE STEM Ambassador of the Year 2021. Image credit: Jo Hartnell.

These ICE members have been making a real difference by inspiring and informing young people about the benefits of a career in civil engineering during what has obviously been a difficult year.

With students doing home-learning for large parts of 2020 and 2021, and social distancing in place for a full year, it’s not been easy to reach out in the same proactive ways that ICE STEM ambassadors usually do.

At the same time, young people have needed direction and inspiration more than ever – as so many of the teachers and advisory bodies we work with have told us.

A judging panel comprised of Lianne Darbinson, Chair of the ICE E&I Advisory Group; Tim O’Brien, Deputy Chair ICE E&I Advisory Group; Helen Littler, ICE STEM Ambassador of Year 2020 and ICE’s Head of Member Engagement Suzanne Moroney. They are proud to announce: 

ICE STEM Ambassador of the Year is Jo Hartnell from London.

Judges' comments:

"This year’s entries were all amazing, all achieving so much, despite the difficulties of the last year. Jo stood out as exceptional for the fact that the pandemic only spurred her on to do more than ever before. While many have been forced to scale back their volunteer efforts, Jo went from strength to strength even presenting a bi-weekly STEM broadcast to a global audience. Jo is true inspiration!"

Jo said: 

"My civil engineering career has featured incredible projects and opportunities which make me an extremely proud ambassador for the construction industry. I am especially passionate about the role of tunnelling in accommodating a growing global population and the need for climate adaption.

"I relish inspiring students to pursue a career in STEM and the opportunities it can afford. I am enthusiastic about showcasing engineering wonders, feats of innovation and highlighting the role of civil engineering in society."

Jo Hartnell

Jo Hartnell

Quality engineer at Atkins.

London ICE STEM Ambassador of the Year.

In response to school closures, Jo Hartnell worked in conjunction with educational charity TeenTech to coordinate and present a series of live-streamed, bi-weekly STEM sessions from March to June 2020. The sessions reached over 650 students.

Recognising the deficiencies of isolated home-learning, Hartnell's STEM sessions were structured to educate students about civil engineering advancements alongside engaging their fine motor and soft skills through remote hands-on engagement. The STEM series gained a global following with participants from London to Kathmandu and were delivered alongside Jo Hartnell’s full-time career.

Hartnell also empowered over 15 colleagues to host discipline-specific sessions providing students with valuable insights into a variety of civil engineering careers.

Special commendation for ICE STEM Ambassador of the Year 2021: ‘One to Watch’ is Virtue Igbokwuwe.

Judges' comments:

"Virtue’s YouTube channel is a great example of how social media can be used to full effect to inspire the next generation. Her fun and honest depiction of life as a civil engineering student, grabbed our attention just as much as it has her thousands of subscribers. We can’t wait to see what she gets up to next!"

Virtue Chiamaka Igbokwuwe

Student of civil engineering at the University of Southampton and employed part-time at Eurovia.

Virtue Chiamaka Igbokwuwe wasn’t even aware of the STEM ambassador programme when she started making YouTube videos to help young people discover and get into studying engineering. As a student she’d struggled to find first-hand information on what studying at university was like and wanted to influence more girls to consider civil engineering.

Igbokwuwe has filmed on campus, on her work placements, and of course a lot over the last year in her accommodation! Her videos provide an honest insight into the life of a student engineer, give top tips for studying including how and where to get scholarships and plenty about the interesting content she’s covering in her studies. She’s even filmed a live reaction opening her exam results for good measure!

Her fun and relaxed style have really hit home with her audience – she’s now followed by over 3.5k young people. As well as her YouTube channel Igbokwuwe also mentored first year students as part of the mentoring scheme run by her university, to help their transition into university life and provide insight into the course.

Watch Igbokwuwe’s 73 Questions about Engineering video.

Congratulations go to all our regional STEM Ambassador of the Year award winners for 2021 who have done a fantastic job of inspiring the next generation of civil engineers.  

Luke Cook

Luke Cook

Wales Cymru ICE STEM Ambassador of the Year.

Graduate engineer at Atkins.

Luke Cook organised the last ICE Engineering Team Challenge in Swansea, an event that saw over 70 primary school pupils bridge a functional bridge deck and pier with volunteers from local companies as well as mini challenges for Years 5 and 6 to learn about wind turbines.

Cook has also actively encouraged his peers at Swansea University by leading a series of presentations about life as a graduate engineer and organised talks to university and college students about working life as a civil engineer. At work, he is part of the ICE Leadership Group supporting graduates and apprentices on existing schemes and promoting others.

Prince Sithole

Prince Sithole

Regional highways engineer at Jackson Civil Engineering.

East of England ICE STEM Ambassador of the Year.

Prince Sithole oversees or runs an in-depth STEM Challenge programme with nearby schools or colleges at least once a month. Even when Covid restrictions prevented school visits, he delivered 10 virtual and socially-distanced events.

Sithole has made his online sessions really engaging by using virtual blackboards, quizzes, role play, design activities and more. Prince Sithole has also reached out through extended networks to inspire young people - from joining Speakers for Schools to joining the Industrial Advisory Board at Kingston University.

Paula McMahon

Paula McMahon

Structures engineer at Sir Robert McAlpine.

North East ICE STEM Ambassador of the Year.

Paula McMahon has been really active online during the last year, supporting students and apprentices in the North East and beyond.

Going digital has allowed McMahon to increase the reach of her voice. She helped a large group of students undertaking Crest Awards at Godalming College, at the other end of the country, understand the variety of careers in engineering, and she told almost 1,500 students during British Science Week how engineers are innovating for the future.

McMahon has also created a lot of video and written content to showcase herself as a civil engineer who came into the profession through the apprenticeship route and written three digital children’s books about the adventures of Lottie for the Women’s Engineering Society (WES).

McMahon has led and joined many active groups to maximise engagement opportunities, including Engineering Together who helped bring Stemettes to Teesside. She also encourages and mentors those on her ICE Teesside Branch committee to undertake STEM activities, and has inspired many other STEM ambassadors to adapt to online work over this last year.

Read Safety over style: getting personal about my protective equipment, where she explains the intricacies of getting the right fitting safety equipment for the workplace.

Watch McMahon's video for Tomorrow's Engineers Week:

Kalina Dimitrova

Kalina Dimitrova

Graduate civil and structural engineer at Goodson Associates.

Scotland ICE STEM Ambassador of the Year.

Kalina Dimitrova says the Covid pandemic “has been a motivation to become even more involved in volunteering, which has opened a bright new horizon and helped me to ‘meet up’ with people from all around Scotland”.

During her digital engagements in the last year, Dimitrova has covered a wide range of topics: from a day in the life of a civil engineer, favourite buildings around the world, to structural concepts, and what happens after you leave school and the different paths into civil engineering.

The Young STEM Leader Steering Group Dimitrova chairs helps create content to inspire young people in school to pursue a career in civil engineering and get involved in being STEM ambassadors. She spoke to students during British Science Week, helped with the Oban Lighthouse project, and is working on creating and delivering civil engineering careers presentations in several languages to reach an even wider audience.

Watch Dimitrova’s digital presentation for the Global Science Show:

Lizzie Rees

Assistant engineer at WSP.

South West ICE STEM Ambassador of the Year.

Lizzie Rees is one of the Chair’s Apprentices on the ICE South West Committee with a passion for STEM outreach. She started making plans for digital engagements during the initial lockdown then chaired and put together the programme for a fantastic online careers event in the summer term for 16-18s, which attracted over 100 students and teachers and set the template for the ICE Inspiration Series in the following autumn.

Rees regularly encourages people to get registered as STEM ambassadors through her role on the committee. She also has participated in STEM activities with local schools throughout her career with WSP, including helping with work experience students and a civil engineering project week.

Watch Rees's event ‘Could I be a civil engineer?

Selina Rai

Structural engineer at Arup.

Yorkshire and Humber ICE STEM Ambassador of the Year.

Selina Rai really embraced digital engagement with young people during the last year, taking part in, amongst others, the Tomorrow’s Engineers Zone as part of I’m an Engineer, Stay at home, speaking on the ICE Inspiration Series talks, e-mentoring, conducting virtual mock interviews, and doing a whole range of inspiring presentations and social media posts where she talked about her role as a civil engineer.

Watch Rai on the ICE Inspiration Series online event ‘Designing and Building the Future’.

Megan Pile

Girlguiding Event – Stafford Western Access Route Site Visit
Girlguiding Event – Stafford Western Access Route Site Visit

Graduate engineer at Amey/Staffordshire County Council.

West Midlands ICE STEM Ambassador of the Year.

Volunteering as an assistant leader for a local Scout group in her spare time, Megan Pile has also run many STEM activities, including traditional ‘hands on’ activities with classes and girl guide groups and a guided tour around the local ‘Energy-from-Waste’ plant.

Pile also took a lead role in co-ordinating STEM activities for her company. Impressively, she developed a work experience programme covering highway geometrical design, drainage, sign design, structures and quantity surveying. It included a day at their Highways Laboratory and on-site surveying with contractor colleagues. This provided exposure for students to a variety of civil engineering disciplines, really maximising their understanding of the profession.

Dr Ruth Kelly

Geotechnical engineer at Amey.

Northern Ireland ICE STEM Ambassador of the Year.

Before the Covid pandemic, Ruth Kelly had reached out through organised activities to over 1,700 young people in spring 2020, supported by a team of 20+ from her workplace. She also set up an internal newsletter to motivate colleagues to sign up as STEM ambassadors.

Kelly was also looking forward to presenting in ICE’s Pitch 200 national competition when the first lockdown happened and quickly switched her activities and events to digital. Ahead of the pandemic she presented her ‘pitch’ live during the Northern Ireland Science Festival, and later, she used her fun video to reach out to the public and to education contacts (including Belfast Live).

Kelly also took part in her employer’s ‘Chat and Learns’ with 14 to 18-year-olds and is continuing to work on new ideas to boost outreach in innovative and safe ways during the Covid pandemic. Looking at the positives from the last year she observed “More use of digital resources, and online meetings plays in our favour to spread the word of careers to a much bigger audience”.

Watch Kelly’s regional heat-winning Pitch 200 video:

Kathryn Brown

Kathryn Brown

Graduate bridge structures engineer at AECOM.

North West ICE STEM Ambassador of the Year.

Kathryn Brown organised 22 virtual events and two weeks work experience for disadvantaged students during the Covid pandemic in 2020. She’s also developed relationships with universities in the North West to help students entering a difficult job market by running events like zoom careers talks.

Even an industry mentorship programme for disadvantaged students to develop their employability skills and learn from graduates working in the industry. Brown is now looking at extending the mentorship programme with Avensis Support Manchester, an organisation that helps young refugees.

Brown explains why being a STEM ambassador matters “I see a real opportunity to invest in our young people through STEM, addressing the skills gap and leveling up agenda, and highlighting the important role engineers play in the climate crisis.”

Check out this video Brown made with her employer on what she does as a structural engineer and her STEM volunteering.

All our ICE STEM Ambassadors of the Year are great role models to young people and industry. Find out more about joining ICE’s STEM Ambassadors in inspiring the next generation of civil engineers. It’s a great opportunity to develop your communication and presentation skills and ICE will support you with resources and training, and offer you opportunities to volunteer.

Want a STEM ambassador to engage your students?

ICE has over 2,000 active STEM ambassador engineers in fascinating roles shaping our world – from constructing bridges and eco buildings, electric railways and smart motorways, to increasing our clean energy supplies and water conservation. We’d love to hear how we can contribute to your careers programme so please get in touch at [email protected] with your request.

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