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Encouraging diversity in engineering

(Back row, left to right) Selim Tudgey, Dr Alessandra Lavoratti, Roussel Nzoyem, Dr Onajite Abafe Diejomaoh, Marcella Gilbert, Shannon Widjaja, Stevie Veronique, Rashida Hartley (Project Manager), Dr Rostand Tayong Boumda, Professor Steve Eichhorn (Bottom row, left to right) Jeet Gor, Benjamin Omasanuwa (Head of Mechanical Engineering Design Office, Saffran Seats).

Press release issued: 29 June 2023

The University of Bristol hosted a black mentorship event in the School of Engineering on Tuesday 27 June.

This event has been running since 2019 and aims to address the underrepresentation of black people in engineering professions.

This time Year 10 pupils from Montpellier High School attended to learn about what engineers do in their everyday lives.

Selim Tudgey, who is studying for a PhD in Robotics and Autonomous Systems at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory gave the pupils a demonstration on how traffic lights work. Selim also provided insight into the history of traffic lights and how they were invented by an African-American inventor and businessman named Garret Morgan.

Selim said: “I found immense satisfaction in offering students the chance to delve into the realms of electrical engineering, software engineering, and project management through the task of designing a traffic light controller. As the session progressed, the students developed a newfound affinity for specific engineering disciplines, ones that they may not have been fully aware of in their regular school studies.”

The group were then given a demonstration of how hydrogen-powered cars work by Dr Rostand Tayong Boumda, who was a researcher in Engineering at the University of Bristol and now works as a Senior Lecturer in Automotive Engineering at the University of Bedfordshire.

Dr Rostand Tayong Boumda said: “We need more of these events to break down the barriers that black pupils face regarding engineering. Giving them the opportunity to meet and discuss with black engineers from various sectors in Bristol is truly inspiring. Each of these events is always unique and memorable.”

The event concluded with testimonies from Benjamin Omasanuwa, who spoke about his journey from Nigeria to working for a company that designs and builds the seating in first and business class airlines, and Dr Onajite Abafe Diejomaoh, a postdoctoral researcher studying biobased composite materials in the Bristol Composites Institute. This was followed by a tasty Caribbean lunch for all the attendees.

Jaz Kaur, Associate Assistant Head and Head of Design Technology Faculty said: “The day was full of relevant information that the pupils could digest and relate to. It was wonderful how the activities contextualised what engineering is all about. The speakers were excellent and not only did they offer food for thought but demonstrated that a career in engineering is possible for everyone.”

Professor Steve Eichhorn, whose EPSRC fellowship funds these activities, added: “Representation is really important. For black pupils to see themselves in an engineering profession, or studying at university, is crucial. Most people in university look like me – white. This is true of the engineering profession as a whole. It’s clear from history that black people have achieved many things in engineering, and hearing about Garret Morgan today opened my eyes to some of those. I also always learn something about people’s journeys at these events.”

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