By Lorna Bennet, Project Engineer and STEM Ambassador
As a world-leading organisation with engineering, innovation and technology at its heart, ORE Catapult is passionate about the importance of developing Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) skills, and we also place a high value on community engagement within our local communities to deliver inspiring, meaningful and impactful social benefit.
I am one of over 60 STEM ambassadors within the company, ready to inspire the next generation of engineers, researchers, technicians and more within offshore renewable energy.
Today, on International Women and Girls in Science Day (11 Feb), I want to share my story as a STEM Ambassador in the hope that I encourage more women and girls to take up the role in their own industries.
I registered as a STEM Ambassador 13 years ago, in 2010, while studying Product Design Engineering at the University of Glasgow and the Glasgow School of Art. I initially joined to support the Glasgow Science Festival activities at the University and Kelvingrove Art Gallery. It was the first time I had ever done anything like it and had so much fun I wanted to do more!
I had an almost paralysing fear of public speaking, which was a major problem for me at school and university. However, becoming a STEM Ambassador, presenting and talking to classrooms of children, played a significant role in overcoming this panic and has also drastically helped in my professional career. I now present to conferences and events regularly. I still get nervous, but I am able to speak coherently and answer questions without feeling like I am going to faint!
STEM engagement sessions have also been an incredible relief when I have become bogged down in work, feeling tired and stuck in a rut. Visiting a classroom to run an activity about sustainability or renewable energy, getting asked fantastic, out of the box questions from inquisitive and enthusiastic young people has proven to be a fantastic remedy to reset and return to work the following day with a fresh perspective.
The support and additional training opportunities offered by the STEM Learning team in Scotland (SSERC) has been incredible and I have learned so much from them over the years. With their support I was able to set up an engagement programme with schools local to my office in Glasgow and successfully apply for a Royal Academy of Engineering Ingenious Public Engagement Award for funding to buy a series of classroom kits for a STEM Club Start up programme in 2018. In collaboration with a number of local and national charities and fantastic colleagues I have driven community engagement, promoting STEM careers and the importance of sustainability across the country.
My enthusiasm and dedication to promoting engineering and renewable energy to the next generation of engineers and scientists led to me being awarded the IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year Women’s Engineering Society (WES) Prize in December 2018, recognised as a WATC Rising Star 2019 in Science & Engineering, as a finalist for the Contribution to Skills Award at the Scottish Green Energy Awards in 2019 and a High Commended Finalist for the Women’s Engineering Society Top 50 Women in Engineering 2021: Engineering Heroes.
STEM engagements have driven my passion for inclusion and widening access, taking every opportunity for training and learning for how to provide lessons and talks that enable access and inclusion for all, including Additional Support Needs and British Sign Language lessons. So, it was an incredible honour to be nominated and recognised as an Outstanding STEM Ambassador in the 20th Anniversary STEM Inspiration Awards 2022.
I cannot thank the team at ORE Catapult and SSERC enough for their time, enthusiasm, encouragement and camaraderie over the years, not to mention the fellowship and warmth around STEM Ambassador activities and social events. Find out more about how you can become a STEM Ambassador.