Department's Girls into Electronics Event inspires engineers of the future

For the second year in the row the Department has collaborated with UKESF to run Girls into Electronics, an event introducing female and non-binary students to the world of electronics. This year also saw a visit from Apple's engineering design team.

Photograph of ambassadors, staff members, attendees and a few MiRo robots at Girls into Electronics 2023
Group photo of department ambassadors, staff members, some of the attendees and a few MiRo robots at Girls into Electronics 2023

The below blog post was written by Qingru (Ellen) Jia (Final year BA International Relations and Politics student, University of Sheffield) who recently completed an internship as Gender Equality and Communications Assistant for the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering. 

Building on the success of the previous year's event, the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering once again collaborated with the UK Electronics Skills Foundation (UKESF) to inspire and engage more young female and gender minority students to consider careers in the field of electronics. This year's Girls into Electronics event, sponsored by Apple, brought even more excitement with the provision of Arduino kits for the practical sessions and visits from female members of Apple's engineering design teams.

On Thursday, July 6th, a group of approximately 30 pupils, aged between 14 and 17, arrived at the Diamond building to kick-start their day of exploring the fascinating world of electronics. 

Photograph of students helping each other with one of the tasks at Girls into Electronics day
Students helping each other with one of the tasks at Girls into Electronics day

Dr.Rola Saad, warmly welcoming all the participants, led the students to The Diamond Electronics and Control Laboratory, where they were introduced to an Arduino microcontroller platform embedded on a Grove's Electronics Beginner Kit and principles of an FM transmitter. With the guidance from academic staff, student ambassadors and Apple engineers, the pupils embarked on a hands-on exercise where they designed and constructed a FM radio transmitter controlled by the Arduino Grove's electronics kit. They began by using Arduino programs to cause an LED to blink, and then progressed to buzzing a buzzer. Through calculations and soldering of components, they successfully built an FM transmitter. By utilising oscilloscopes to measure transmission frequencies and examining audio waves, multiple groups were able to construct their own radio transmitters across the lab.

Photograph of Apple Engineer helping pupils with the Arduino microcontroller platform
Apple Engineer helping pupils with the Arduino microcontroller platform

During the lunch break, Professor Chee Hing Tan, Head of the Electronic and Electrical Engineering Department, warmly addressed the pupils, emphasising the importance of a multidisciplinary approach in engineering to foster their interest in electronics. Zoe Benn, a third-year student who recently completed her placement year with BT, also shared her personal journey into the field of electronic and electrical engineering, recounting her experiences from GCSE and A-level studies. Zoe encouraged the pupils to create plans that integrate their passions in advance, and also shared her placement experience in the emergency service network at BT, inspiring them to recognise the impact they can have and the opportunities that the subject provides to contribute positively to society.

Two engineers from Apple then shared their industry experiences and engaged in a Q&A session with the students. When asked about breaking gender stereotypes, both the  visiting Apple engineer, and Professor Jo Shien Ng, shared their personal experiences and encouraged the pupils to pursue their passions. They emphasised that one's passion should always take precedence, regardless of the industry being male-dominated. Hard work and dedication were highlighted as key factors in achieving success. Valuable advice was also provided in response to other questions, such as the specialisations of Apple engineers and the challenges they face in their work. The students were encouraged to maintain an open mindset and a thirst for learning, as overcoming challenges ultimately leads to growth and progress.

Photograph of Professor Jo Shien Ng answering questions from students
Professor Jo Shien Ng answering questions from students

Following the lunch break and the enlightening Q&A session, the students gathered in Lecture Theatre 6 of the Diamond building for a captivating mini-lecture by Professor Dan Gladwin. His lecture centred around electricity and renewable energy, taking the students on a journey from understanding the sources of power to unravelling the reasons behind the high electricity prices in 2022. By exploring the relevance of electricity bills and the future of the electrical grid, the students gained a deeper understanding of the implications of electronic and electrical engineering in real-life scenarios.

As the final exercise of the day, Dr.Tiantai Deng introduced the MiRo robot to the students, for a task where they were taught how to code using a computer to navigate MiRo through a maze. Ten groups of pupils eagerly competed the task to see who could guide MiRo through the maze in the shortest time. This hands-on challenge allowed the students to apply their coding skills and problem-solving abilities in an exciting and interactive manner.

Photograph of students testing their MiRo robots in the maze
Students testing their MiRo robots in the maze

It has been my great pleasure to lead the Girls into Electronics Event in the EEE Department for the second year now. Events such as this are deeply important to encourage more girls and the young generation into the electrical and electronic sector. Many thanks to all who made this event happen, especially our student ambassadors whose enthusiasm has been amazing to witness.

Dr Rola Saad

Organiser of Girls into Electronics and Senior University Teacher at the University of Sheffield

Photograph of Dr. Rola Saad and the winners of the MiRo Robot Challenge with the record of 24 seconds
Dr. Rola Saad and the winners of the MiRo Robot Challenge with the record of 24 seconds

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