This interview provides an inside look at the talented people who work with Aquaspira.
For this week’s interview, we sat down with Emma Kirby, AquaSpira Engineering Intern. Emma gives us an insight into what it’s like working in manufacturing and how her time here at AquaSpira has helped shape her future goals #WomenInEngineering
Tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi, I’m originally from Sheffield but have been living in Manchester since starting University in 2018. I study Aerospace Engineering at The University of Manchester, then on the weekends build rockets! The organisation is called Starchaser, which was founded by entrepreneur Steve Bennett. Currently, I am doing an Internship here at AquaSpira working alongside the Technical team, I’ve been with the company since July 2021 first working on the shop floor and now in the main office.
How has the transition been from Sheffield to Manchester?
The transition has been interesting, both Sheffield and Manchester are great cities and each has its own qualities. With Manchester being a bigger city there is more to explore but I do miss the close-knit community in Sheffield. I tend to go home every couple of weeks to visit family and friends so it gives me a good balance.
How and when did you decide Engineering to be your career path?
In all honesty, I was never interested in Engineering, I was originally planning on doing either Art & Design or Architecture as I did them for A-Level alongside Maths, Physics, and Chemistry for AS Level. But after doing a creative subject for A-Level I found that it wasn’t my cup of tea, it was more of a passion I didn’t want to burn out.
Me being me I started to look at the courses alphabetically in UCAS, and Aerospace Engineering seemed to stand out – it sounded interesting enough. So, I went away did some research, attended open days at Universities, and found there were a lot more opportunities within the Engineering industry so thought why not.
Has the internship at AquaSpira helped shape your future goals? And what is the most noticeable difference between being at University and working in the Factory?
The internship here has given me an insight into what is available out there in the Engineering world, I’ve discovered my passion for Design Engineering here at AquaSpira Limited (ASL). Drawing the product that is needed and then testing different situations using finite element method (FEM). The analysis that I complete inform adaptations to the design that benefits both production and the client. Once I complete my degree, this type of analytical evaluation work would be something I would be looking for within a role.
At university the majority of the work you do while studying engineering is theoretical, understanding the science behind how things work. However, working at ASL has helped me understand the practicality of designs, aspects such as cost and embodied carbon that have to be considered, which you don’t think about when studying. It’s nice to see research and product innovation from start to finish and the work I do making a difference now rather than at the end of my degree. I have a lot of freedom and responsibility within my role, which is a change from academic work. Also, I can work with people from a range of departments so I’m constantly learning something new and picking up different skill sets.
What are the most challenging aspects of your job. As a #WomanInEngineering could you share your experience with us?
I work with a range of people across the business internally and externally, so working on multiple projects at the same time keeps me on my toes but requires good organisation and planning. Currently, we are working alongside the University of Birmingham and the UKCRIC National Buried Infrastructure Facility, to develop a lower carbon smart pipe for sustainable large-scale buried infrastructure, so having to quickly adapt to schedules can sometimes be challenging, but with the support of the team, I am able to shuffle a few things around. Despite these challenges, I have been able to expand my knowledge, especially in Research and Development.
Over the years we have seen an increase in demand for #WomenInEngineering, What advice if any you would give those who are considering engineering as a career choice?
Just go for it! More women are needed in STEM roles (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and many people don’t realise the variety of job roles there are available. It’s embarrassing I only learned what Engineering was when I applied to study at University, I do think educational organisations could focus more on providing information about how broad the Engineering industry is and what options are available.
So if you enjoy Maths and Science then Engineering is a career to consider.
What has been your proudest accomplishment at AquaSpira?
While working here I’ve been able to begin transitioning 2D drawings to 3D models, to form building information models. This process involves describing the built assets through digital information in a cohesive manner. Using my skills from a module in my first year I have been able to create a library for ASL containing pipe information that can be used to conduct FEA. This then led me to work with The University of Birmingham on helping create a digital twin. Digital Twin is a digital-based model that allows you to test different designs. These designs can be changed and optimised quickly and then the best one can be manufactured reducing the number of manufactured prototypes, which saves the company money and helps speed up innovation.
In September you will be going back to University, is there anything, in particular, you will miss?
I will miss many things, but I think the main one would be the people, there’s a friendly atmosphere here and you get to know everyone pretty quickly. I do think I will miss the independence and the fact I get paid to work! At University you are always doing work around the clock, I will miss my 8-4 routine.
If you were to recommend an internship to your peers what advice would you give them?
Doing an internship will make you stand out against others, it’s an added extra to go on your CV. I would say get the most out of your time, ask questions, and pick up new skills. For example, I learnt Python for a project which evaluated the extruded profile on the Extrusion line. The python code I developed allowed us to retrieve data from a thermal camera that was set up above the extruded profile, allowing us to evaluate and monitor production quality.
What word best describes you?
Unexpected - I do the most random things, I tend to surprise myself at times like with the coding!