International Summer Academy in Engineering For Women

 

Workshop Website

Workshop Photo Album

One week before the summer exams as I was checking my college emails for any final for exams guidance something catches my eye, an email from the College of Engineering about an international summer academy in engineering for women, held in Austria. I was immediately interested, and looking for any reason to take a study break, I started my application. I never really thought I would be selected for a program like this, but I felt it would be good experience to practice writing motivation letters and personal statements which are needed for our placement applications next year, so I went ahead anyway. Fast-forward one month, and after a gruelling few weeks of study and 6 exams, I received an email – congratulations you have been chosen to participate in the international summer academy at the University of Applied Science Upper Austria! NUI Galway were awarding a scholarship to 4 students to fund our travel and the academy fee! Altogether 4 girls from NUIG were accepted into the program which accommodates 30 women from all over the world, and surprisingly, none of us knew each other beforehand!

Day 1 at the academy, and we are introduced to our fantastic group of girls, coming from 13 different countries including; America, Canada, South Korea, the Cayman Islands, Australia, Spain, Thailand, Russia, Croatia, Lebanon, Mexico and Chile. I felt I was in a privileged position as part of this international group. Together the group can speak 8 different languages, including Gaeilge, and study a range of subjects including; computer science, biomedical/electrical/mechanical engineering, math, design and graphics, natural science and biotechnology. Over the next 3 days we are introduced to a range of topics applicable to all fields including, project management, innovation management in global companies, and my favourite, sustainability, by the wonderful Cynthia Rodgers, a professor in the university in Nova Scotia, who travelled all the way from Canada to speak with us.

Week 2 of the academy was more hands-on and project orientated activities. We were split into groups of 4, each group having 4 different nationalities and 4 different disciplines, and given a technical project to complete by the end of the program. My group completed a robotics laboratory and had an intensive lecture on the dynamics of space vehicles from Professor Wolfgang Steiner. We then split into our different disciplines, with the engineers completing an explosives lab, the computer scientists completing a programming course and as part of the natural sciences discipline, we extracted and analysed our own DNA, as well as exploring a prostheses lab run by Dr.Hubert Egger, who along with his team of researchers have created the first leg prosthesis that sends feelings to its wearer. It was amazing to meet these research leaders.

During the final week of the academy we focused on gender and diversity management, and the problems faced by women in the workplace and inequality. I am more mindful now in how to plan my career. We also focused on the importance of working in an interdisciplinary environment and we reflected on our own experience from our projects, which we then presented.

Throughout the course we had free time in the evenings and on the weekends to explore the beautiful city of Wels, swim in its crystal clear rivers and lakes, try out the local cuisine and visit cities such as Vienna, Salzburg, Linz, Hallstatt and Passau. We visited the international company Rosenbauer, which is the largest fire truck, apparatus and emergency response vehicle manufacturer in the world, as well as the Ars Electronica Centre in Linz. Both an outdoor music and film festival were held in Wels during our stay, although the weather didn’t seem to get the memo! (I really like this!)

I chose to apply to this program so I could challenge myself academically as well as broaden my social knowledge outside what I solely knew from my own country. We were 30 different girls, from different countries, with different backgrounds and different points of view, and sharing these different opinions and ways of working has opened my mind and broadened my understanding. The best part of the program, for me, were the people who took part in it. I am excited to have gained worldwide connections ad friendships, as well as an excuse to visit twelve other countries!

Eimear Rutherford