We find out from more of ICE’s award-winning STEM Ambassadors why they volunteer and how they inspire young people to follow their footsteps in this third installment of our series of blogs.
Dr Maryam Imani is ICE East of England’s STEM Ambassador of the Year and Senior Lecturer in Civil Engineering in the School of Engineering and the Built Environment at Anglia Ruskin University.
“I believe STEM outreach is needed to bridge between education and future needs to guarantee that industry’s skill shortages can be filled. It needs the support of all to be effective: Government, industry, universities, colleges and schools. It also empowers young people to make future personal and professional achievements.
Providing role models for young people
"I was inspired by visible role models in the industry to become a civil engineer which motivates me to put myself forward – in the hope that my career and story will inspire young people to follow.
As an ICE STEM ambassador, and my region’s School Liaison Officer I help plan and deliver engagements that present the vital role of civil engineers in society, the knowledge and skills that a civil engineer should gain and develop and the pathways to employment. They won’t know about the opportunities available to them in civil engineering and how they can pursue a career in this area unless we get out there and tell them.
ICE’s educational resources have supported me but also my cutting-edge research in the field helps me to better identify and contextualise the real-life challenges in civil engineering. My research interests are focused on water and wastewater infrastructure resilience/interdependencies/optimisation and also applications of artificial intelligences in water systems engineering.
Teaching through problem solving
Students find some of the more novel problem solving the most interesting. For example, one of the very interactive topics that is widely presented and discussed in the media, is ‘flood resilience’. To engage students with cutting-edge research on this topic. I explain how different types of flooding can happen (including the drivers such as climate change and urbanisation). This is followed by interactive sessions about soft and hard flood management strategies and how as a community we need to work together to promote our resilience to flooding.
"I believe a key part of ICE’s engagement with STEM programs is embedding creativity and innovation. We need to embrace the fact that future generations need to think, design and operate differently for job roles in the modern industry where technology and social considerations are developing swiftly.
"Civil engineers shape our communities, they design and build infrastructure, and they operate and maintain it – for the good of society as a whole. It’s our duty to make sure future generations understand the need for our vital work and will support the community in the future, as we are doing now.”
"I chose to become a civil engineer after trying my hand at various jobs and have been in industry now for 35 plus years.
"I studied structural detailing that led me to employment as a civil engineering technician. It’s taken years of work and part time study to become a Chartered Civil Engineer and I have immense pride in the profession and the part we play in providing and maintaining the infrastructure to support everyday life. I mainly work in highway structures now.
Communication and problem solving are key skills to learn
"The message I would like to send to all potential engineers and volunteers is that civil engineering is a fantastically rewarding career that not only offers good opportunities but also offers a huge amount of job satisfaction. To meet this challenge the qualities required are an aptitude for solving problems, often demonstrated in maths and science, but also great communication skills in many different formats such as written and spoken languages, art and information technologies. I’m passionate about advocating all the routes into industry because of my personal experience.
Inspiring school children
As Chair of my region’s Education Panel I am regularly at STEM events representing ICE and promoting civil engineering as a career. One of our main activities of the year is the Inspire schools competition where we invite every school with year 7 pupils in the north east region to submit a 200 second video on what is civil engineering. From the submissions we pick the best and invite them to a finals day and set an engineering challenge. This has run for five years now and is hugely popular with volunteers, schools and sponsors from local civil engineering companies. I am part of a small committee that organise and run this event that was scheduled to have 80 + entries this year before COVID-19 closed us down, but we will be back!
Also, I am involved in supporting many events throughout the year: Women in Engineering, Bring It On, Apprentice week, Meet the Engineer and the annual Maker Faire to name a few. To help recruit other volunteers to make these happen I go to ICE North East Graduate and Student Committee meetings and have built a good working relationship with younger engaged members. I organise events like ‘meet and greets’ to welcome new students and graduates to the region while also explaining the opportunities we have for ICE STEM Ambassadors and we have lots of fun demonstrating the activities that we do with the young people!”