Professor Tony Purnell, the former F1 team principal who heads up the Research and Innovation division at British Cycling – or ‘Room X’ as it is now known – launched the brand-new Aspiring Engineers programme designed to best prepare students to pursue their engineering career aspirations and gain places on their chosen university courses.
Focussing on the Rio Olympics, the lecture concentrated on the strategic approach to British Cycling’s quest for marginal gains which saw the team take home six gold, four silver and two bronze medals. Even more impressive, the work undertaken by Professor Purnell’s team of PHD and masters students resulted in every British time trial at Rio breaking a world or Olympic record.
The lecture is the first of many for the school’s Aspiring Engineers Programme which will next month be led by Dr Rachel Nicholls-Lee of Falmouth-based marine engineering company Whiskerstay.
Currently only 11% of the engineering workforce in the UK is female. Through a tailored calendar of lectures, workshops, mentoring and one-to-one support, the programme aims redress this gender imbalance by supporting the next generation of female engineers in making their career aspirations a reality.
Professor Purnell said: “For me, a love of engineering starts young. The problem is there’s a tradition to give boys toys such as Lego and Meccano, which are really challenging and encourage you to make things, whilst girls all too often aren’t. I think that’s incredibly wrong because, for me, it was being given a Scalextric set when I was ten that triggered my love of engineering. If you’re exposed to things like that at a young age and get a kick out of making things work that’s how it all starts and that opportunity should be for everyone.”