Book to inspire next generation of engineers

Imperial has partnered on a project to show the broad ranging possibilities of engineering in a new educational book. 

The book ‘Engineers Making a Difference: Inventors, Technicians, Scientists and Tech Entrepreneurs Changing the World, and How You Can Join Them’ is a collaboration between Imperial College London, the Gatsby Charitable Foundation and the publishing partner What on Earth Publishing, and will be sent to every secondary school in the UK in Spring 2023.

Authored by Dr Shini Somara, the fully illustrated book comprises role model profiles from across the engineering industry, with 12 chapters ranging from the environment to robots, and from communications to entertainment. The book is aimed at 12–15-year-olds in secondary school who are considering their future educational and career choices.

Imperial was chosen as a collaborative partner for the project due to its reputation as an outstanding STEM university, with an exceptional strength in engineering, and its commitment to achieve enduring excellence in research and education in science, engineering, medicine and business for the benefit of society. Imperial is working with the specialist children’s book publisher What on Earth Publishing, whose publications include the ‘Britannica All New Children’s Encyclopedia’ and ‘It’s Up to Us’, a roadmap to sustainability developed with The Prince’s Foundation.

The book’s profiles include individuals such as space physicist Professor Michele Dougherty from Imperial, co-founder and co-CEO of the sustainable packaging startup Notpla, Pierre Paslier, a technician working at CERN, Jamie Pinnel, and rollercoaster designer, Michelle Hicks. Each profile will focus on how the individual got into engineering, and what really inspires them about both their career and their day-to-day work.

Solving global challenges

Professor Maggie Dallman, Imperial’s Vice President (International) and Associate Provost (Academic Partnerships), said: “Engineers, inventors, technicians, scientists and tech entrepreneurs all contribute to the field of engineering which needs diverse minds, bringing a range of perspectives and skills, to solve global challenges.

“This exciting project will show young people the engineering that is all around them and that they too can be part of solving these challenges.”

The project is supported by Lord Sainsbury, whose Gatsby Charitable Foundation does significant work around improving the provision of career guidance in schools, including the promotion of technician job roles and encouraging young people to consider the variety of educational options available to them.

Lord Sainsbury said: “A vitally important decision which everyone has to take when they are young is what career they want to pursue. I am excited about this book because I believe it will help young people make this decision by giving them the key information they need to know about different jobs, and by enabling them to relate to people already successfully doing them.”

Professor Alice Gast, President of Imperial College London, said: “Lord Sainsbury has recognised the critical need to excite young people about engineering. There are many interesting careers in engineering and we need to let young people know about them when they are making choices about their education. I am confident that this book will help them to be inspired and motivated by the interesting and challenging problems engineers deal with.

“We are very grateful to Lord Sainsbury and the Gatsby Charitable Foundation for their vision and generosity. We are proud to be a partner in this important project to ensure that we have more engineers to make a difference in our world.”

Uplifting the face of engineering

The book is authored by Dr Shini Somara, award-winning mechanical engineer and fluid dynamicist turned TV producer and presenter, children’s book author, podcaster, TEDx Speaker and mentor to MEng and PhD students at Imperial.

Dr Shini Somara said: “Engineers are problem-solvers and I’m keen to highlight how much their ingenuity, creativity and logic impacts us all. Old stereotypes need to be thrown out – the engineers I’ve met are a diverse range of superheroes. As someone who is passionate about updating the face of engineering, and making the industry more accessible, I’m excited about this book’s potential to inspire a new generation of engineers and I look forward to showing young people how much of a positive difference can be made through engineering.

“The engineers in this book demonstrate that no matter their background, skills and interests, there continues to be so much opportunity for them in this exciting profession.”

Making a difference

The book will show that engineering is a diverse industry, with those featured coming from a variety of backgrounds and having followed various educational routes to work in their respective fields, also demonstrating that there are lots of ways into engineering, including routes such as apprenticeships as well as more traditional university routes.

Professor Omar Matar, Head of the Department of Chemical Engineering and one of those supporting the project at Imperial, said: “Engineers are problem-solvers and key to solving the worldwide challenges that face society today, such as climate change and the search for sustainable practices. Working in engineering allows people to make a difference in the world, and we need the brightest minds to continue doing this.”

A school kit will be sent free of charge to every secondary school in the UK in Spring 2023, comprising of two copies of the print book (one for classroom use and one for the school’s library), an educator’s guide which aligns with the national curriculum, a laminated timeline for classrooms, illustrating engineering feats that have shaped the world over time and 12 posters for use in the classroom, showing fun topics about each chapter in the book.