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….

Ex-President

GEMS AGM

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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