Angeliki Palla is a member of the Institution’s London Young Members Group. Recently she visited Stebon School in East London to give a talk to children about the amazing scope of structural engineering careers. Here she discusses the talk – how it inspired both her and the children.
I am Honorary Secretary of the Institution’s London Young Members Group 2018 Executive Committee, responsible for co-ordinating meetings and other activities run by the Group. Visits to schools aren’t something I’ve done regularly with the Group but I’m well used to working with children, having been a personal tutor for three years, teaching English, French, maths and physics while studying Civil Engineering at the National Technical University of Athens, Greece. I have always found it creative to work with kids, conveying my knowledge and sharing my passion for engineering.
It’s good to speak to children about engineering careers at an early age: it is then that they begin setting their ultimate goals and working to achieve them, and visits from engineers are a great opportunity to inspire them about how engineering can help change the world and make a difference – how it promotes analytical thinking, creativity and a positive impact on the environment – all while designing things that matter. You can hardly be bored as there are always new problems to be dealt with, many of those you overcome by collaborating with great people.
At Stebon School I introduced the kids to structural engineering by giving an interactive presentation on the basic principles, using visual examples to illustrate the vast importance of structures to people in everyday life. The kids were actively involved throughout, especially when I was asking them to think about questions like: 'name some materials you have noticed that are used for structures', or 'show me some structural elements that you can see around in the classroom' or imagine how a building behaves when subjected to wind by using your body'. This kept them focused and aroused their interest to ask follow up questions at the end of the presentation.
We talked about how engineering mixes disciplines such as science, technology, math and art to provide beautiful structures that also respect the environment. The children showed great concentration on the topic and were keen to take part in the discussion and express their queries. For instance, I was explaining what the structural stability is and how a structure behaves when subjected to different types of actions and as part of what we have learned from past failures and one student asked me how the Pisa Tower is still standing even though it is rather inclined. It was a very to the point question that generated a number of other beautiful questions.
I loved the experience and the children's interaction. Immediately after the visit, I felt more motivated and happy about what I do. Dedicating time for education work not only inspires others, but mainly reinforces and boosts your passion, by recalling what inspired you, what drives you and leads to re-orientation of your aspirations - rendering you more motivated and productive. In some cases, you act as a role model to the kids and push them to set high aspirations and work hard to achieve them in order to thrive.
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