We need to save our planetary home, and it is rural students who could make the difference

We need to save our planetary home

Environmental Engineering and Commerce student Annabel Biddulph (pictured above with the Dean of UNSW Engineering, Professor Mark Hoffman comes from the tight knit cropping community of Cootamundra, about four and a half hours south west of Sydney.

Annabel attributes her interest in engineering to the inspiration of two “incredibly strong women” - her chemistry and maths teachers at Kinross Wolaroi School. It was also at school, through her careers advisor, that she first heard about UNSW’s Rural Engineering Scholarships.

She had her heart set on UNSW because of its reputation as the number one engineering university in Austral- ia. Annabel was impressed by the range of engineering courses on offer and the research focus on renewable energies and sustainability.

I would like to come back to rural Australia at some point and help improve facilities that determine water allocation and implement new technologies for farmers that move away from fossil fuels and help support more sustainable agriculture

Annabel Biddulph - Environmental Engineering Student

“Also, as a woman in engineering I was attracted by the amount of support available for women through scholarships, societies and the women in engineering camp. I would like to become more involved in societies like this to further encourage women to pursue a career in engineering.” Although Annabel knew there was a substantial gender gap in engineering, she was taken aback by the reality of it in the classroom.

“I had only ever heard the statistics, and known that it was something I wanted to help change,” she says. “It was an entirely different experience to walk into my first engineering lecture and actually see that the statistics were correct. I remember arriving and feeling like the odd one out, and in a situation I had never encountered in my life.”

Annabel believes it is important to encourage rural participation in engineering degrees because rural students have a vested interest in their community’s issues, like water and resource allocation. She says if rural students returned to their communities they could collaborate on engineering projects with the local community with whom they already have a relationship. This would ensure the best outcomes for the community.

“I would like to come back to rural Australia at some point and help improve facilities that determine water allocation and implement new technologies for farmers that move away from fossil fuels and help support more sustainable agriculture,” she says.

Annabel’s wildest dream for the industry is to complete- ly eradicate the need for fossil fuels.

Jack Griffiths was encouraged to apply for a scholar- ship to UNSW by his school careers advisor. Jack says the scholarship he won – a Faculty of Engineering Rural Scholarship - has changed the course of his life.

Jack grew up in Griffith, about 650km from Sydney and thought he would be there forever, until he went to boarding school in Sydney for Years 11 and 12. Jack wasn’t clear about what degree he wanted to do until the last term of Year 12, so it was hard for his parents and friends to offer support and encouragement to pursue Engineering.

“It was actually my Year 11 and 12 Engineering Studies teacher who piqued my interest in Engineering, as I never had the chance to study it back in Griffith,” Jack says.

“He taught it in a way that made it seem fun and enjoy- able. Had it not been for his input, I would never have really considered applying for Engineering, particularly Civil Engineering.”

“In Year 12, we did subjects such as Aerospace and Civil. It involved quite a bit of mathematics, which I have always loved, but also challenged me to think in new ways to solve difficult problems. It appealed to me as a subject on many different levels, and that was when I knew that Civil Engineering was the degree that I want- ed to study at university. I applied for UNSW because I knew that it was the best.”

Having begun this journey himself, Jack believes it is extremely important for the future of engineering - and the planet - to encourage participation from rural students.

“Among the 11% of Australians who live in rural are as, there is likely a handful of incredibly gifted and talented minds that could change the world with their ideas and ways of thinking - but they may never have the opportunity to discover their potential,” Jack says.

“We live in an age where technology is advancing at an incredible rate, but with this, our planet is dying at an increasing rate. We need as many talented minds as we can find to help save our home, and it is these rural students who could make the difference. They must be encouraged to follow their passion”.

We need to save our planetary home

Environmental Engineering student, Danika Smith , (pictured with Miles Campbell) believes the industry needs engineers from rural backgrounds not only because they are more likely to go back and work in rural areas where there are often skill shortages, but they can also offer a different perspective on the issues engineers face. She says rural areas may harbour great innovators that just need to be given a chance.

Danika, whose hometown is Bathurst, in Central West NSW, says that receiving the Campbell Family Rural Scholarship in Civil Engineering has been a game-changer. The Scholarship was established in 2001 by School alumnus Grahame Campbell (BE Civil ’65, MEngSc ’72 - Managing Director of CMPS&F from 1987 to 1995), who saw it as an opportunity to share his passion for both engineering and education. “My post graduate work at UNSW was pivotal to my success” he says, “When I had the opportunity I did not hesitate to donate the scholarship. Danika is a worthy recipient.”

“Not having to worry about money has taken a lot of stress off my family and meant I could focus entirely on my subjects which has made me a better student, and will in turn my make me a better engineer,” Danika says.

Danika first heard about the rural engineering scholarships through a UNSW stall at a tertiary education information day in Bathurst. She was impressed by the number of rural scholarships on offer - not only as an opportunity for herself, but also knowing that the university really valued what rural students had to offer.

While neither of her parents have STEM backgrounds, a family friend who is an engineer, was the first person to expose Danika to the possibility of studying engineering. “She gave me a lot of support with the technical side of things while my English teacher encouraged me to push myself to get the marks for UNSW and helped me considerably with writing my scholarship application,” Danika explains.

As a shy teenage girl trying to decide on a career path, and feeling slightly overwhelmed at the thought of entering a traditionally male dominated field, Danika says she was inspired by the UNSW Women in Engineering Development Program. It spurred her on, knowing there was concern and support for the welfare of female engineering students.

As for the future, like her scholarship sponsor, Danika is committed to giving back. “I’d love to move back to a rural area and do something in the water industry or in resource management, really making a difference in improving the environment in places that are often forgotten by government bodies in the city,” she says.

“My big goal is to donate a scholarship like my own back to the university. This scholarship has made a huge difference for me and I’d love to share this with someone else. I’d also like to become a role model for future teenage girls who love maths and promote them to do engineering. I know there are plenty of girls who would make great engineers but they get turned off by the masculine stereotypes.”

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