Institution news

STEM Engagement: Q&A with Alexandra Knight, Founder, Stemazing Ltd

Institution News Team

Alexandra Knight
Alexandra Knight

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers is sponsoring the Stemazing Inspiration Academy which supports women in STEM, including activities to inspire the next generation.

The Institution will also be providing a series of free online training sessions for our STEM Ambassadors, to run monthly from September 2021 to January 2022. The training sessions, which have been coordinated by Jelena Gacesa, Operations Manager of the IMechE Education Programme and will be delivered by Alexandra Knight, will enable Ambassadors to build the toolbox of fun STEM activities they can deliver, as well as their confidence in public engagement. To book yourself onto this free training course series or to find out more, please contact us at ambassador@imeche.org.

In the meantime, read our interview with Alexandra Knight to find out more about Stemazing, Alexandra's academic and career background, her future plans with Stemazing and how you can get involved.

Q: Please tell us a bit about yourself and your academic and career background?

Alexandra Knight (AK): I am a Chartered Mechanical Engineer and Fellow of the IMechE with over 15 years’ experience in industry. With most of my career in consulting, I have led numerous projects across diverse engineering sectors including medical, power and defence. I am also a Visiting Professor with the Royal Academy of Engineering at Brunel University London, bringing industry insights into academia. I am also a Trustee on the Board of the Women’s Engineering Society volunteering to support and promote gender diversity in engineering. In 2019 I founded Stemazing Ltd whilst still working in industry as a Technical Director at Amey Strategic Consulting and in 2020 I left that role to focus full time on Stemazing.

Q: As founder, please tell us more about what Stemazing is? 

AK: Stemazing is a social enterprise dedicated to inspiration and inclusion in STEM. We have two key themes - StemazingWomen and StemazingKids. My aim is to support women in STEM to shine as confident visible role models and inspire our future innovators and problem-solvers. I set up the Stemazing Inspiration Academy as one of my Stemazing initiatives to empower women to up-level their public engagment skills and build their confidence on camera, and then deliver a 6-week programme of StemazingKids sessions to Primary schools. This programme is offered to women and schools for free thanks to the support from sponsors like the IMechE who enable the delivery of this initiative.

Q: What inspired you to become a mechanical engineer and how has that inspiration, as well as from your career and academic experience, influenced and guided your journey with Stemazing?

AK: I wanted to become a mechanical engineer so I could learn a toolset that would enable me to make a practical difference in the world. When I left school I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do but I knew being an engineer would open doors for me. It has done just that and I feel privileged to have worked on so many incredible projects, from designing new medical rehabilitation equipment to working on submarines, to helping improve power distribution in Thailand to transforming the Forth Road Bridge into an intelligent bridge. Every project I have worked on has made a difference. However, I have always felt a burning desire to drive greater diversity and inclusion in engineering as I know this is a key ingredient for better performance and innovation. This desire is what fuels Stemazing and I know this is also making a difference, maybe in an even bigger way than I did when I was delivering technical projects.

Q: What have been the main highlights from your journey with Stemazing?

AK: There have been so many highlights already! The fact that the Inspiration Academy is reaching women internationally is incredible. We have women all around the UK, in Europe, USA and 5 women in Africa on the programme as it is all run virtually which means geography is not a barrier. This means we can have even more impact than I hoped! Also getting feedback from kids and parents who take part in StemazingKids saying how much they enjoy it is brilliant. But I think the best thing is hearing from women who say they are proud of themselves for stepping outside their comfort zone and building their confidence at the same time as being visible role models and inspiring the kids they engage with - that means the world to me.

Q: What do have planned next for Stemazing this year?

AK: The first round of the Inspiration Academy has been such a success that I am planning on running it again later this year for a new cohort of women starting in September. I have also been so impressed with the response from the women involved so far that I am planning to launch the StemazingWomen Membership that is open to even more women so they can join our community to be empowered and inspire others.

Q:How can IMechE members get involved?

AK: IMechE members can apply online to take part in the next round of the Inspiration Academy. If you're an IMechE STEM Ambassador, you can also sign-up for free online training sessions that will build your STEM delivery outreach and confidence.

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