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By Joanne Robinson on

Providing unique opportunities for visitors to get to know engineers

When most people think of engineering, greasy hands and overalls might come to mind. Yet look around you and behind almost everything you see, you will find the work of an engineer...

In our latest show at the National Railway Museum, we have been trying to open our visitors’ eyes to the diverse world of engineering.

We wanted to create an opportunity to integrate real life engineers into our programme and create a platform to break down some of the preconceptions our visitors might have about engineers. We believe it’s very important to broaden our visitors’ perceptions of who uses STEM – and research around science capital does back this up.

From previous experience we have found it difficult to create a meaningful engagement opportunity for the engineers that also fit in with their time commitments. From the visitors’ perspective we found that often they felt uncomfortable striking up conversation with a stranger.

In finding a solution for these problems, Engineer Like Me was born. It is a fun, fast-paced gameshow that pits different engineers against each other. Scratch the surface and it is a simple facilitated conversation which uses a wheel and categories to ask our engineers silly questions. But the silly questions, the gameshow theme tune and funny presenter are the things that keep the audience hooked and shine a spotlight on the engineers. The audience is integrated through the use of voting panels so they can influence the scores for their favourite engineer.

The style of the show requires little to no preparation on the part of the engineers and the length of the show at half an hour meant that they could take part in their lunch breaks. The questions focused on the engineers’ interests, preferences and job.

Some examples include:

  • If your job was a film then what would the tagline be? eg Librarian: in a world of chaos one woman strives to keep the shelves in order and the people well read.
  • Would you rather work underground or in space?
  • If you had ten million bricks of Lego what would you build?
  • True or false- all electric trains in the Netherlands are powered by wind energy
  • What inspired you to become an engineer?

In hearing the engineers’ answers to these questions, the audience was given a chance to feel like one or more of the engineers was a bit like them- a personal connection that could make it easier for a young person to potentially see themselves in a similar role, or at the very least, helps break down the notion that science and engineering are only done by very brainy people in distant labs and unknown places.

What other ways could you think of to facilitate conversation between experts and non-experts, and maybe build a personal connection?

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