Girls rise to real world challenges with Emerging Engineers Competition

The Emerging Engineers Competition Finals took place on Wednesday 21 August, celebrating 6 months of hard work from Perth high school students with posters, prototypes, and demonstrations presented at the Indian Ocean Marine Research Centre.

The Emerging Engineers Competition is a collaboration between UWA Girls in Engineering and Woodside OceanWorks. It offers the opportunity for all female high school students in years 7 -12 in the Greater Perth Area a chance to research, design, and pitch a solution to a real-world problem in marine engineering.

This year’s cohort set their problem-solving skills to work on ‘biofouling’; the uncontrolled growth of barnacles, worms, coral and other marine life on subsea equipment. With no clear-cut solution, biofouling costs the subsea industries millions annually, posing a worthy challenge for the next generation of engineers.

Since February, the students have been researching, designing and refining a range of creative ideas to combat biofouling and eight outstanding final teams were selected to present their innovations in front of a panel of discerning judges from Woodside, Rio Tinto, Monadelphous, Oceaneering, and Chevron.

After a frenzied session of short pitches and intense live Q&A with the industry judges, the Helena College Year 11 team rose to victory taking the Overall Winner prize, followed closely by Ballajura Community College Year 8 and St Mary’s Anglican Girl’s School Year 10 teams who were awarded Junior and Senior Category prizes, respectively.

The competition proved to be a rewarding and challenging experience for the students and for many, their first interaction with real-life engineering.

“I had never considered engineering before, but the competition helped me understand what engineering is, outside of a school environment,” said Jacinta, a member of the winning Helena College team.

Tina Zhang, Outreach Officer for the Girls in Engineering Program, emphasised the importance of building core skills among the students.

“We set out to create to demystify what engineering is and to expose these young women to real-world problem-solving from an early age,” she stated. “We wanted to move engineering out of its familiar classroom trappings and towards real-world applications. This meant creating an open-ended challenge that emphasised creativity, analytical thinking, teamwork, and project management.”

The competition also offered a chance to connect with members of the engineering industry through a series of print and web resources, virtual and on-campus events. The experience has been a two-way learning process, as seasoned engineers were exposed to fresh ways of approaching in this long-standing problem.

“The competition was a fantastic opportunity for students to engage with industry and apply diverse thinking to solve a real subsea problem, bio-fouling,” stated Gabrielle Pennock, Engineering Manager at Woodside. “Within a short timeframe, the students researched, built prototypes and pitched novel engineering solutions, several involving coconuts! The presentation standard was exceptional and a testament to the efforts of students, teachers and their supporters. We look forward to welcoming these bright minds into the subsea industry.”

Media references

Tina Zhang Outreach Officer (Girls in Engineering)

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