Running my own business, I’ve given presentations, seminars, webinars and workshops to a whole host of different audiences – from CEOs of billion-dollar software companies through to graduate engineers learning the technical skills to be productive in the workplace. Tailoring the content is crucial to engaging the audience – it’s a great feeling to pass on important information in a way that feels like the you’ve piqued the viewer’s interest, and shared some of the passion I have for the various topics I talk on.
I was recently asked to talk on a area I know well, but to an audience I have no experience of whatsoever – my 9-yr old son’s class! The teacher contacted me, and asked if I could give a 30-minute overview on career choices, and in my case, ‘What is an Engineer?‘.
What would I talk about? What would they want to see to keep them interested, not nodding off or dreaming about the latest capture in Pokemon Go? I gave it some thought over a weekend, asked my son what he thought, and spoke with a few friends and colleagues about what would work. As I started to formulate a plan, I realised that being an Engineer can be one of the coolest jobs in the world…
With a 20-year career built on simulation software technology and it’s usage, it’s not difficult to give examples of interesting projects I’ve worked on – from Formula One car composite optimisation through to 3D printed satellite parts beaming mobile phone signals around the world to taking a recent trip to Vietnam on an aircraft I spent 7 years of my life helping to develop. It’s a long list, and there are some corkers in there to give kids an impression of what being an engineer means.
Well, what does it mean? Being an engineer is all about being creative, problem solving and using the skills they’re currently learning (maths, science, design technology) to dream up new ideas, and putting them into practise. Demonstrating the intricacies of FEA in a language they understand (‘we build and test structures just like you do in Minecraft and Roblox’) allowed them to see that what they’re doing in and out of school can lead onto a really interesting and fulfilling career.
Explaining how the one of the latest aircraft developments (F-35, $1 Trillion development cost, 1200mph) has its roots in both the first (Wright Flyer, $1,000 development, 30mph) and the history of Pixar (think Edwin Catmull, CGI guru and former Boeing engineer) bring together many different topics that both enthused and excited the class. It was safe to say that every kid in that class came away with a much better understanding of what being an Engineer means.
The 30-minute presentation turned into 2 hours of engagement (sorry, Miss!), showing them FEA models on their classroom projector (I built, solved and post-processed two variations of F-35 landing gear in MSC Apex while they watched – thank you GrabCAD library!), various 3D printed structures I’ve developed and a pile of questions from the whole class, from “Mr Evans, is titanium stronger than diamond?” through to “Do you make more than a Premiership footballer?”. It was awesome to share what I do for a day-job with a group of kids eager to learn about what grown-ups really do when they’re at work.
In summary, it was a great experience – seeing a room full of 9-year olds go ‘WOW!’ over an computer model of a fighter plane, through to “Daddy, we had another job talk today from a neuro-surgeon (a fellow parent) – it was so boring – he didn’t even use PowerPoint! Your plane models were waaayyyy cooler!” – I suppose that’s praise enough from perhaps my harshest critic!
So does Sol, my son, want to be an engineer? Well, maybe, but it’s second on the list to being a Fighter Pilot. Oh, well – maybe those F-35 FEA models were perhaps a bit too cool…!