Role model: Dr Lucy Rogers - mechanical engineer

10 April 2017

Whether you’re still in education or a few rungs up the career ladder, we could all do with inspiration to show us what is achievable and to gain an insight into what others are doing in the field of design and engineering. This month our role model is Dr Lucy Rogers who will be sharing her career highs, challenges faced, technology used and why she thinks we have such an engineering skills shortage

Dr Lucy Rogers is the managing director of Makertorium, an independent engineering design company. She has a PHD in what she refers to as bubbles (a.k.a. fluid dynamics) and is a Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, The Royal Astronomical Society and the British Interplanetary Society.

Previous projects she has worked on include using her love for the Raspberry Pi computer to ‘hack’ full sized animatronic dinosaurs that can interact with humans at Blackgang Chine, a theme park on the Isle of Wight. She is also an author of “It’s ONLY Rocket Science” and the soon-to-be published “Wiring the Internet of Things” as well as being a judge on the BBC Robot Wars television series.

What do you most enjoy about your job?
I love making things, variety and learning. I take pleasure in taking something simple and making it get a “Wow!”.

What inspired you to become an engineer?
At school we had a “Great Egg Race” club, which was inspired by the 1980’s TV program of the same name (look it up on Youtube – it was ace!). I really enjoyed the club and my Physics teacher suggested I go into engineering. Before then, I wasn’t sure what engineering was.

What has been one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in getting to where you are?
The main challenge was knowing what I wanted and having the confidence to believe in myself.

What has been a career high or most memorable work moment?
There have been so many from working in Nepal when I was 21 to visiting FabLabs around the globe, which has been great. But I still get a buzz out of getting some electronics and code to do what I want it to. Sometimes just an LED flashing makes me smile.

In terms of your career, who has been your role model?
I don’t really have a role model as I am not sure who else really does the job that I do. However, I have some brilliant mentors – people who help me, challenge me, inspire me and champion me. I have found all these mentors myself, they are all unofficial. I find people I respect and who are passionate and ask if they would mind helping. Often they are pleased to!

What is your view on the image of engineering and design?

I feel that engineering has an image problem. There is a huge difference between the roles of the person who fixes your car, washing machine or phone and the people who designs them, but they are all called “engineers.” In other European countries, the word for engineer comes from “ingenuity” – this is much closer to what I need to use in my work. I don’t work with engines. If we can let people know that engineering is about problem solving, about helping people, about making life better for us and the planet, I don’t think we would have such a skills shortage.

What technology or design tools do you use day-to-day in your job?
Every day is different. I am at a computer every day – from Twitter to presentations to writing blogs or books. I also use the computer to look things up. I remember a time before the internet and Google – being able to do things from my desk, rather than going to a library and maybe waiting weeks for the information, is amazing.

With the advantage of hindsight, what career advice would you give to your younger self?
Hang on, you will be able to do what you want to do, the technology just needs to catch up. Also, don’t worry, you won’t need to use advanced maths often – numeracy, things like Pythagoras and logic skills are key.

If you were hosting a dinner party who would you invite and why?
People who have a passion for what they do and can communicate it. It doesn’t matter who or what that is. I am always fascinated by what other people find fascinating. If someone has a passion and can communicate it clearly, they are a joy to be around.
lucyrogers.com

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