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21 July 2023

'Diversity is the key to innovation': King's ushers in next generation of engineers at first Girls into Electronics event

School age girls were invited to learn the basics of electronics and engineering at the Quad Labs earlier this month.


A team of academics, students and technical staff brought electronics to life for visiting Year 11 girls and sixth formers through a series of practical workshops, design challenges and taster lectures in King’s first Girls into Electronics event, in collaboration with the UK Electronics Skills Foundation (UKESF) and sponsored by Apple.

Women are still hugely under-represented in Engineering, with 2021 figures indicating that only 16.5% of engineers are women in the UK. The one-day Girls into Electronics event series provides an avenue for women and girls to learn more about studying Engineering at a university level, as well as exposing them to female role models working in the Electronics sector at top UK universities.

It’s important for us as individuals and as a department to support outreach work like this event which aims to build a more diverse future for engineering – as a bonus it’s also a lot of fun!”

Dr Grazia Todeschini, Outreach Lead for the Department of Engineering

The girls were then given the chance to develop their hands-on skills through a series of interactive workshops. Led by Dr Matthew Howard and Dr Naseem Ramli, the first involved programming an Arduino microcontroller, or single chip computer, with a Grove beginner kit. This all-in-one instrument allows beginners to practise programming and the basics of electronics with compatible hardware.

By inputting code into the kit, the participants controlled LEDs, buzzers and sensors, combining them to solve a series of set problems or create their own devices.

For many this workshop was their favourite part of the day, with one participant saying, “Out of all the events of the day, I enjoyed being able to use the Grove beginner kit the most. It was a really interesting and practical, hands-on experience.” Thanks to the generous support of Apple, the girls were able to keep the kits. The technology giant also held a Q&A panel discussion, where the engineers gave an insight into life in the electronics industry and the cutting edge of technology development.

This was followed by a group design workshop led by Dr Yansha Deng from the Department of Engineering, who challenged the girls to create ways to support a blind person trying to cook a meal. Using what they learnt throughout the day, the girls problem-solved to come up with a number of possible solutions from smart pots to uniform vegetable choppers.

Dr Bipin Rajendran, who organised the day, rounded out the event with a keynote talk surveying the past, present and future of electronics, and its fundamental place in solving some of society’s largest challenges.

Reflecting on the importance of the event, Barbara Shollock, Head of the Department of Engineering, said “Diversity is the key to innovation. At King’s we want to equip our students with a holistic mindset to serve society through interdisciplinary and collaborative problem solving, and that needs a diverse group to do it. That’s why events like this one are so important not just for us, but for society as a whole.”

Technology is the future, and technology depends on Electronics. To get the best solutions, we need a diverse range of people studying Electronics and going on to careers in this sector. Universities are a vital part of the skills pipeline, which is why UKESF is proud to be collaborating with King’s College London on events such as 'Girls into Electronics', which can help to build a stronger and more diverse future for Electronics and for us all.”

Stewart Edmondson, CEO of UK Electronics Skills Foundation

The event was concluded with a networking session over afternoon tea, which gave the participants a chance to hear about what it's like to work in engineering from King's academics, as well as guests from the UKESF, Apple and the Aerospace Technology Institute.

Many left the day with their interest in electronics galvanised, with even more considering a career in the field by the end of the event. For some, this won’t be the last time they design their way to success in the King’s Engineering labs.

In this story

Barbara Shollock

Head of Department of Engineering

Bipin Rajendran

Professor of Intelligent Computing Systems

Grazia Todeschini

Reader in Engineering

Yansha Deng

Reader in Engineering

Naseem Ramli

Lecturer in Engineering Education

Claire Lucas

Professor of Engineering Teaching and Learning