Power of Engineering

Last month when I was still living in Melbourne, I got a call from QUT to offer to fly me to Brisbane to speak at the Open Day again this year. Of course I would have said yes, but Mum and Teagan were visiting me in Melbourne that weekend. Instead I let them know that I’d be back for engineering week if they had anything planned, and straight away I was signed up for a presentation to some school girls.

I remember telling Mum how crazy I must be. After all, who promises that they won’t take on any more extra-curricular activities, then in the same week volunteers themself for more things? “Why do I do this to myself?” Of course I knew the answer before the words were out of my mouth!!

Here it is 😀
Power of Engineering presenting

117 year 9 and 10 girls, from eight different high schools, all in the one room. SO much easier than trying to get out to all of the schools individually!! And I was trusted to give them a positive impression of engineering.

Before I’d even started I was asked for my autograph. Perhaps you’re thinking ‘Are you for real Deanna? An autograph? Aren’t you like 20?’ I couldn’t believe it either. But they were excited to see me, because I was on banners all around the room and on the engineering course books that they’d been given (yes it was creepy to be next to it all). It definitely made my trip to Brisbane worthwhile. Maybe I didn’t even have to say anything to give them a positive impression of engineering?

I decided that my usual school presentation could use a makeover. I learnt a lot at the Robogals training weekend (I was supposed to be the trainer!), and I don’t think that any knowledge should go to waste! Audience participation, personalised photos, and videos featured more than they usually would. Plus, since I was after two other speakers I figured that the majority of my presentation about what engineering is and what it’s like at university would have been covered already. Might as well skip to the good parts!

Now that I think about it, I haven’t given a presentation like today’s before. As in, on this content.. because the content was ‘stuff I’ve realised’ and most of it I’ve only realised recently. There was a point in it from a video I watched two days ago. There was a conclusion that I myself only came to two weeks ago. And there was an underlying concept throughout the talk that I only realised in the past week.

It will take a reasonable amount of words to explain the topics covered in the talk, so I’ll spread it over a few posts if that’s alright with you! In summary, I spoke, and they came up to me afterwards for my business card and to say “thank you, that was really great”.. That’s why I will happily agree to these presentations when the opportunity comes up, even if my diary says I shouldn’t.


A weekend with Robogals

The Robogals Rural and Regional training weekend has come! And gone, like the wind!

I can remember taking photos of my furniture just before I left to list it for sale while I was away.. yeah, right. I didn’t even have time to think! Friday 8am through to Monday midnight was just one big Robogals blur!

Friday we ended up having a 5 hour wait at the airport after our plane had a fault and eventually got cancelled after an hour and a half of sitting on it while they tried to fix it. Everyone else was probably thinking ‘how ridiculous, they should have kicked us off straight away’ but I could totally relate it to what it’s like at work. You have some potential fixes up your sleeve, which could work instantly or could fail and leave everyone sitting there waiting.. but it’s still worth the try!! Eventually we got put onto a fancy qantas flight that got us in with just enough time to make it to a UNSW Robogals dinner only a little late. A teensy bit of planning in the hostel, before heading to bed.

I’d never stayed in a hostel before.. it was pretty uneventful but there were no power points in our room which was dumb, and it got awkward when someone from outside our group came home. He’d been living there for a few months though, so I guess he’d be used to people much worse than us! I guess you normally just wouldn’t go into your room until you’re ready to sleep, so that you don’t keep others up with your conversations.

We were up nice and early to do the grocery shopping, create powerpoints, organise the rooms and eventually register our guests! One arrived early so I bumped into her while she was checking in, and we had an easy chat for a while so I could tell that the weekend was going to be fun.

Saturday afternoon we heard from Marita about Robogals (well, not me because I was waiting for one of the late-comers) and from Effie, the Rural and Regional Robogal of the year last year on her experiences talking at schools. She went to 15 schools in one semester.. I was pretty impressed!! She emphasised the use of videos, role play (!), and anything interactive when speaking to children.. she even spoke to a year 4 class and a school with 5 students. She said that once she took her grandmother with her to a school so that she could see what she was up to, and halfway through her grandmother shouted out ‘that’s not something that girls should be doing!’ Oh, how times have changed…

We took the ferry to our site tour of the one and only Sydney Opera House..

Some interesting civil engineering stuff there.. Nah, seriously: someone studying IT said it was their favourite part of the weekend!

As for my favourite part.. that comes next.

Awww yeah, karaoke. A solid 3.5 hours of 80s voice-hurting. And bonding, of course.

Sunday was kick-started by a breakfast that I was pretty proud of (“you ARE ready to be a mum!”), followed by fun training things and, my favourite part of the day, a trip to Adriano Zumbo’s patisserie. His cookbook is literally the only one I use, so I was a bit excited!! I bought ‘some’ things but didn’t end up eating them straight away because stress kills my hunger a bit. We practiced our school presentations, then headed out to dinner. Little did I know that that was the last I’d see of my Zumbo stash (thanks cleaners).

Free champagne, cheap meals, and uno.. another great night, I’d say!! I couldn’t believe that things were playing out so well, but that’s what happens when you have such a great group of girls together!! We played games in the hostel until wayyy too late.. worth it!

Another awesome breakfast and then the girls were set to work in the Robogals Call Centre.. it was too cool to see everyone on the phone to schools at once – what a team!! Our second supporters’ luncheon for the year (which didn’t require any organising on my part this time!) involved backflipping robots, and then some networking for all with the industry reps. I met some ladies from Cosmos magazine that showed me the new iPad app aimed at teenagers – it was really incredible the way that they leveraged the technology to provide a maze-like discovery structure to the online magazine that I think will keep kids engaged with the content. I even had a quick amaze-session with one of the ladies over Will I Am’s involvement in STEM promotion, but that deserves a blog post all of its own!

The weekend ended with the others off at a board meeting while I met up with Paul and reclaimed what was mine….

TV, TED and Thredbo

Alright, it’s been a while.. and some things have happened I guess. The word famous has been thrown around 😉

OK, the realms within which are pretty small I’ll admit.. it’s pretty much my facebook friends. And maybe some 12 year-old kids.. but, when you’re on a kids’ tv show, I guess that *is* what happens.. :/

Scope Chanel 10 4th July 2012

A year’s worth of hard work paid off.. boiled down to a 3 minute segment explaining my thesis in layman’s terms! Luckily they took care of the scripting, so a brain-controlled car should be pretty easy to digest now, with the exception perhaps of those lame puns that they threw in.. I was worried that I would regret ever agreeing to do the video because I thought I’d hate the video and be plagued by it forever, but each time I watch it I like it more! What a relief!

Remember that time I gave a TED talk? I’d been dreading the day that I’d have to watch it back on the internet; wasn’t quite sure that it’d turn out how I had it in my head.. well, so far, the world seems to like it. Because that’s the thing: it’s on show to the entire internet, and it’s meant to be seen. There’s some weird voting aspect involved in deciding who of the 300 finalists will get to present their full talk at TED2013.. they’re particularly vague about it though ‘comments will help us decide’ but specific about it in that votes won’t secure your place. And so I imagine that there isn’t too much point in spamming everyone to vote.. I suspect that they would already know who they have in mind; to make it into the top 10% you’d have to have done some really amazing things.. I’m talking like Chantelle starting a charity, right!

And on one hand, you get even the slightest possibility of getting to TED and you take it, spamming included. But on the other, it is so so nice to read comments from strangers. To see that people that I don’t know have recommended my video to their friends.. Saying things like “A great idea and willing to fight for it, seems to me Hood is one of those people TED was made for.” How incredible..! Really an amazing feeling. We’ll see how this plays out, but either way, I’m pretty satisfied (even if my talk bores me!!)

Anyway, this all came to light in the last week when I was having my last family holiday for a long while. Sadly Dad wasn’t able to come because of work, because I was really looking forward to having him there: I see the others a lot, but he kinda makes it feel ‘holiday’y. We went to Thredbo to visit Mathew because he’s working there for the season. The skiing was good fun – I picked it back up again pretty quickly and was onto blues (one ranking below blacks) on the first of the two days. Albeit it took a while on day 1: we followed Mum on the beginner-most slope for a while; Mathew was teaching her. We left Mum waiting for us for lunch as Mathew, Teagan and I went off to a more difficult slope.. lonnnng story short, we made it back about 2-3 hours later after Teagan being a bit out of her depth and Mathew supporting her step by step down the by then-iced slope.

I spent a lot of time doing Robogals stuff.. got pretty stressed over the RRR weekend I’m in charged of, but it’s turning out ok so far (a lot of thanks goes to Jacob’s Telstra phone – reception for the rest of us was terrible!).. next weekend will tell!

A day five years in the making

Today was the day that my friends and I have spent the past five years working towards. Just about all that I can remember, the only part of the day when anything actually seemed real, was when I was standing on the side of the stage waiting for them to call my name, clapping all of my friends onto the stage to greet the chancellor and get their parchments.

IF21 2007 Grads

I can also remember that Lawrence and I might have spent a good half hour being pseudo friends, when he told me that his one extra 7 in maths got him the QUT Medal, while I had ruled myself out after that 6 in statistical inference in fourth year. Of course he wasn’t arrogant about it, but it set me up for a big surprise when we sat in our seats and he pointed to the name book and said ‘guess you got one too!’ Definitely a shock, when at the time I thought it must have been for my engineering degree component, given that the maths department had kindly phoned Lawrence to ask if he’d prefer to attend the maths ceremony later in the week, which I knew couldn’t possibly be feasible based on my GPA when you consider that I had 8 fewer subjects than straight engineering students. I even thought that they had my GPA wrong when they read it out, because it was higher than the one that I usually quote, but I realised after Lawrence got 7.0 read out that it is just our maths GPA which they didn’t specify.

The feeling, standing alone on the stage between the chancellor and vice chancellor, with the full crowd alive with applause after what the VC had read out, was really something that I think made the years worth it. Of course it was awkward, but it was good to have all of my engineering friends behind me, and I really felt like I deserved to be recognised as different to the hundreds behind me.

We met other engineering grads afterwards, which I imagine was probably the first time that electrical, aerospace, mechanical, medical and civil engineers hung out together. And perhaps I suspect, the last!



Last night, the whole year’s effort was made worthwhile. We held the GEMS AGM (in conjunction with our games night – best idea ever!) and had a massive 12 nominees for the Executive Committee of typically 6. I can assure you, this is a first for GEMS – normally whoever gets suckered in by the free food at AGMs is forced to be on the committee so we have enough to affiliate with the student guild.. But instead, we had 12 girls email their nominations in advance explaining how the club has had such a positive influence on them by making them feel welcomed and giving them access to role models that they wish to do the same for others in future. Of course we didn’t vote anyone out – that would be stupid: they’re eager volunteers.. but we did break everyone into specific sub-committees to help the group function better.

The AGM was a success (pizza was involved) so we had a bit of an impromptu focus group on what worked well throughout the year which prompted me to then put together a survey to collect everyone else’s feedback and hopefully some nice-sounding statistics and testimonials for our website-to-be!

I think that a new committee, a pumpin’ end of year party, and a sweet-looking website with compelling stats should be enough to bring the sponsors knocking!

It paid off!

Industry night speakersWowwww this has been a massive week.. started off doing the assignment equivalent of cramming for a presentation that we had to make about surgical robots for enb457.. I felt bad at some points for convincing the group to choose that as the topic because I was the only one really set on it, but apparent from Kelly and cars, I was the only one really set on anything, so it turned out ok. It went especially well when we had to present, and other students spoke about the fifteen variations of static var compensators (yawn) while we showed people surgery robots with 6 arms and explained how surgeons could use telesurgery applications to perform surgeries guided by x-rays without radiation exposure.

Spent the whole day today working on my part of the report and editing everyone else’s, because for the rest of the week I have been absolutely run off my feet organising the sem 2 2011 gems networking evening. Organising it alone was a killer task (I took care of all of the gifts, catering, industry contacts by myself!) but then I added the extra task of presenting at the event.

I did manage to prove to myself though that I was able to do it. But I learnt that while I may be able to organise everything in preparation for the event, there is no way that I would have been able to pull it off without the help of the executive committee and Mum during the event. I spoke mainly about my tips for getting organised and involved in the university experience, but also came good on my promise to make a talk about my experiences at ICWES15 that I got sponsorship to attend.

Feedback on the event was really positive – we even managed to pull around 55 people!

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