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Inspiring future engineers with an egg, paper and tape

16 January 2019

Freya Kille, a QUEST scholar sponsored by Skanska, wants to increase awareness of civil engineering in school.

Inspiring future engineers with an egg, paper and tape
Students create a tall tower out of paper to hold up an egg. Image credit: Freya Kille

In September 2018, I went back to my secondary school (Kingston Grammar School in Surrey, England) to give talks on engineering and my experiences; especially about my QUEST scholarship from the ICE.

I gave three 40-minute presentations to the lower sixth physics classes. My presentations explained first about general engineering and encouraged students to consider engineering, to take up placements over summer, and to explore it as a possible degree option.

It was a great experience and all the classes showed a real interest in what I was saying. It felt great to promote the subject I love and I could discuss my course in detail.

Egg tower challenge

To finish, we did a 10-minute challenge to build the tallest tower possible that could hold an egg at the top using only paper and tape. One group managed to get over a metre (and only two eggs broke in the process!).

I then discussed basic structural concepts to show them the best ways of building the tower which, as physics students, they all found interesting.

I also did a Q&A forum with about 20 upper sixth students who were all applying to do engineering at university.

It was clearly very useful for them to hear from a student studying engineering, and we ended up having some very interesting discussions.

Students built towers of all shapes to support an egg without breaking it.
Students built towers of all shapes to support an egg without breaking it.

QUEST scholarship

It felt particularly useful to talk to two students who wanted to do civils, as they’d never heard of the QUEST scholarship.

It was great to be able to explain it to them, so they’d be able to apply and possibly benefit from it.

I also told them about ICE and how they can use the institution to learn about a possible future career.

I have since had emails from students following up with more specific questions, and it’s been great to be able to help them.

Through connections at uni, I also took part in making a promotional video to explain civil engineering to students trying to decide what to study for their degree. This is being used in sixth forms and colleges.

Supporting roles

I love my course. The modules on structures or maths play to my strengths academically, and it really interests me finding out how things work in real life.

I’ve really enjoyed learning geology and soil mechanics, as I’ve never done anythilike it, and it’s a whole new field (for me) that’s crucial to civil engineering.

I really like having the responsibility of being a peer mentor, and knowing that I’m available to the students to go to for help.

My own peer mentor helped me lots, guiding me through my first year at university, and I now consider her a friend I can always go to for help.

Outside of my degree, I tutor school students in physics and maths. I love teaching and being able to help students understand topics they struggle with.

Could you help inspire the next generation?

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  • Freya Kille, QUEST scholar