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Award for student engineer building bridges with girls

Elena Fillola Mayoral - article

Press release issued: 28 May 2021

A student inspiring the next generation of female engineers has been honoured with a special award.

Elena Fillola Mayoral, aged 21, designed and delivered a workshop to more than 100 Year 6 pupils across Bristol entitled ‘you could be the next engineer’.

Elena targeted state schools whose students were less likely to go on to further education. These included St Mary Redcliffe Primary School in Windmill Hill, St Bernard’s Catholic Primary School in Shirehampton and St Bernadette Catholic Secondary School in Hengrove.

“Studies show that young people just aren’t sure what engineering jobs really entail,” the fourth year University of Bristol student said. “Only 12.4% of engineers in the UK are women – but that doesn’t have to be the case.

“There’s huge demand for engineers in the UK. I wanted to devise a workshop that presented engineering as an accessible, creative field with a positive impact in society that’s open to everyone.”

During the workshops the students were given a peek into the exciting world of engineering and heard from female engineering students about some of the interesting projects they have been working on.

They then got hands on with a project called ‘building vibrating brush monsters’, where they created a simple motorised system that makes a dustpan brush skuttle across the floor.

Teachers described the workshops as “fun”, “fantastic” and “inspiring” and praised the student volunteers’ enthusiasm. A before and after survey found that pupils understood significantly more about engineering after the workshops.

The University has now presented Elena, an engineering mathematics student, with their Outstanding Award, an accolade given to just a handful of students each year who go beyond the call of duty to make positive change in society.

Elena, from Zaragoza in north east Spain, said: “The most important finding in our survey is that the workshop helped close the gender self-confidence gap: before the workshop, boys were significantly more self-confident than girls in their engineering skills.

“We increased girls' self-confidence, and after the workshop there were no significant differences between boys and girls – that was really exciting to see.”

Each year more than 1,000 students take part in the PLUS Award, a year-long initiative that helps students grow through extracurricular activities such as volunteering. The Award, run by the University of Bristol’s Careers Service, also makes students more employable.

A handful of those who take part in the PLUS Awards go on to achieve the more challenging Outstanding Award.

Stuart Johnson, Director of the University’s Careers Service, said: “Elena’s passion for engineering and more female representation in the industry really shone throughout the Outstanding Award interview process

“It’s been fantastic to see what a positive impact her work has had on youngsters.”

Elena is staying on at the University of Bristol to study as a postgraduate. She hopes to expand her engineering workshops to more primary schools.

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