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I am in my third year of studying for an Industrial Design degree at Loughborough, and this year has been in total contrast to my first two - I have a routine! Rising early every morning at a regular time to catch the train into Oakham from Loughborough has been an experience I never quite factored in when I gratefully accepted the opportunity to work for Rutland Plastics. Still, every cloud has a silver lining as I have shed a good few kilos with the daily troop to and from the station.
My placement year in industry with Rutland Plastics, an injection moulders, has been rewarding in so many ways, not just the development of my technical skill set but also the opportunity to work with so many talented and experienced people who have offered so much support and encouragement from day one.
The depth of practical experience gained form working on actual live projects has really crystallised my thought process when it comes to design. Within weeks of starting I was given license to liaise with clients on project requirements, discussing technicalities and offering my 'considered advice' (please don't fret, it was always with the support and encouragement of far wiser heads than I) on how they can enhance and improve on a design solution. Previously, I would come up with a design and work my way through the practicalities and issues of making it, now I am able to run that thought process in parallel at the conceptual stage of design.
My first project involved the design of a self-closing toilet brush, since then I have worked on a number of diverse projects and designs where I am responsible for generating functional prototypes for client consideration. Currently, I am working on a plastic sleeve solution that eliminates the need for carbonate intervention during the cleaning of glass bottles for a major dairy manufacturer. I have loved every minute of involvement in this project and gained wide ranging hands-on practical experience from CAD design, through to developing prototypes, the stages of making modifications and dealing direct with the customer. This is the joy of it, no single day is the same and each and every one presents a new challenge.
There’s’ never been any question of me wanting to do anything other than design engineering. I get a real buzz from the structured approach, it is in my DNA. As a child I was forever taking things apart to see how they worked, it would drive my parents mad but I think my dad understood, after all he teaches DT, and both my older sister and younger brother studied design at Loughborough.
My year long placement with Rutland Plastics has been a fabulous experience and I am genuinely saddened that it is drawing to a close. As I look towards being a successful (I hope) graduate of Industrial Design, it has provided wonderful preparation and insight into my chosen career path, strongly influencing my dissertation. Having produced around a dozen jigs and fixtures in-house, I am going to base it on the application of using 3D printing as a source of providing jigs and fixtures.
When I consider the role of women in engineering a few things spring to mind, I studied GCSE and A Level Design and Technology: Resistant Materials, in both instances of my experience, the gender divide was pretty even, maybe not 50% but pretty close, in terms of ability and attitude there was no divide! ‘Women in engineering’ was simply not a talking point, we didn't even know it was an issue?
On my degree the story changes slightly, the ratios change but we are all still equal, all striving to meet the same deadlines but getting the same encouragement advice and support. At Rutland Plastics, I am part of a very small handful of girls in the company! No criticism of them at all, after all they gave me my chance, welcomed me in with open arms and have supported me so well. They have made me feel like one of the team. I have no doubt they will continue to do so, and for other females that will follow. There is no stereotyping here. I am treated equally and I am judged only on how well I do what I am supposed to do. When I am on the shop floor I roll up in my work boots, and safety glasses and I do my work diligently. When on my free time, I am a typical girl, I like to glam up and party (not work days you understand!).
Aware I am at the planning stage of my career journey, my working experience is limited, but so far my introduction into the world of industrial design through both study and work has been illuminating, I use my brain and I am appreciated for it - I am so very excited for a future in design as an engineer.