Katie Winkle has a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Bristol. A fourth year project on robotics led to a fascination for the impact that robots will have on everyday life, and she has just finished her first year of a PhD jointly at the University of Bristol and the University of the West of England.
She is based at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, investigating human robot interaction in social and assisted living robotics. “I am currently looking at emotions – can we make robots seem emotional and how does that impact on how we feel and behave when interacting with them? Engineering is becoming ever more cross-disciplinary, in my work I have already met with medical professionals, psychologists and even puppeteers! This makes for an exciting, fulfilling and rewarding use of my engineering skills and knowledge.”
When Katie decided to study engineering at university, she was warned by many people that it would be difficult. She explains: “My school did not offer A-level further maths and did not teach mechanics as part of the core maths A-level. This prevented me from applying to some universities, and those that did accept my application warned that I would struggle to catch up. But I persisted in my desire to become an engineer."
Katie is very keen to encourage young people into engineering. “Engineering is a rich profession which is all about creative problem solving, not just maths and physics. A greater diversity in the workforce will give us better ideas. There is not always one right mathematical answer; the creativity is crucial.”
Being selected for an IMechE undergraduate scholarship was very important to Katie. It allowed her to get involved with STEM outreach work, rather than having to get a part time job alongside studying. “I mentored sixth formers, gave talks on what it means to be an engineer, worked on engineering event days and summer schools and taught maths and science in the local children’s hospital.”
She recently undertook an outreach event to celebrate Women in Engineering Day. She designed, organised and ran an engineering challenge day for 40 local high school students (boys and girls). Alongside her fellow PhD colleagues, she has also been working on the design and manufacture of a robot platform for STEM outreach activities which they took to @Bristol Science Centre and plan to use in local schools. “My passion for inspiring young people results from my own experiences and wanting to give back to the community, however I also believe such work is vital if our profession is to continue to flourish.”
Looking to the future, Katie is keen to continue her research, either within academia or a company. “There has never been a better time to be a young engineer who wants to make a difference in the world. The future holds many societal challenges, and with the advance of modern technologies engineers have never had greater opportunity to impact directly on people’s lives.”
Katie was really happy to be chosen as the Institution’s Undergraduate Visionary. “It’s important to have active role models to inspire the next generation of engineers, to engage with the public about what exactly our profession represents, to break down gender stereotypes and to share the wonderful history of engineering in this country and worldwide. If we can do this then I believe the future of engineering is very bright indeed, and I am excited to be a part of it.”
Read about all the awards recognised at the Vision Awards