Outreach at
Reaction Engines

The future is STEM

At Reaction Engines, we believe STEM outreach is vital to raising aspirations and tackling gender stereotypes and we are committed to using our passion and experience to engage with children and young adults to show them what opportunities there are in the STEM field for their future. 

Here are some of the activities our team have engaged in throughout 2023:

In February, Talent Acquisition Manager, Cath Dunleavey, and Materials Engineer, Sarah Azamtu attended the SIYF (Science in Your Future) Careers Fair at Rutherford Appleton Library where they spoke with c.100 students about careers in STEM, their own career journeys, and what it’s like to work at Reaction Engines.

Speaking about the event, Cath said: “The careers fair at Rutherford Appleton Library was really good as a lot of the young ladies we met were interested in Maths & Science but had not really thought about engineering or weren’t aware of what a career in engineering involved. I wish I had known more about it at that age!”

In April, Head of Manufacturing Operations, Barry Coulling, participated in a ‘Human library’ STEM event at a local secondary school.

Barry said: “A Human Library is where pupils go round in groups asking questions about their chosen career, how they got there, what they enjoy most / least. It was a great chance to meet with the young people and explain about engineering and the multitude of roles available. It was also good to explain my path into engineering and to point out that not everyone knows what they want to do so don’t panic, sometimes a career chooses you as much as you choose it!”

In October, several of our colleagues volunteered at the Oxford Science + Ideas Festival (IF Oxford.)

IF Oxford is an independent charity that runs a cultural programme that inspires communities across Oxford to create an annual science and ideas Festival in October for thousands of people to enjoy. Taking place in the Blackbird Leys area of Oxford, Reaction Engines participated in the festival’s interactive Science and Technology zone.

Speaking of the event, Head of Systems Engineering, Development and Test, Oliver Lanestead said: “It was really rewarding talking to kids about engineering; their enthusiasm is really infectious. Parents often ask the hardest questions and I also found that it was a great opportunity to practise my own communication skills – refining through the day how to get across what we do in an engaging and direct way.” 

Other STEM activities included:   

A Future Success Day at Aylesbury High School where Head of Systems Engineering, Oliver Lanestead, and Aerothermal Engineer, Loukia Kritioti, delivered two sessions: one introducing the current job market and how to navigate it, and another doing interview practice with the students. Speaking about the day, Loukia said, “Running the interview practice session at Aylesbury High School was fun and very insightful. It was also interesting to hear what kind of concerns the students had around interviews in general. Especially at such an early age where they are just entering university or work and facing the prospect of an interview for the first time. I remember having similar questions/fears during that period myself and hope to have helped by providing advice based on my own experiences or by debunking some common interview myths.”

ED&I (Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion) Lead, Claire Farrow, and Interim Engineering Director, Mike Whitehead, joined the Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce at a panel event entitled ‘Excellence in Engineering’ to discuss alternative pathways to engineering careers.

Materials Engineer, Sarah Azamtu, presented to a very engaged group organised by the Association for Black and Minority Ethnic Engineers (AFBE). Not only did the attendees find Sarah’s presentation incredibly beneficial but Sarah also shared how enriching she found it: “The AFBE does some incredible work with people from the age of eight all the way to retirement. Their Saturday lunchtime webinars are aimed at the 8 – 18 years and had attendees from all over the country. The AFBE are run mostly by volunteers who work to inspire minority ethnic students into a career in STEM. It’s a great chance to potentially let a child know that a future in engineering is an option for them, particularly if they’ve never thought about it before or had much exposure to it.”

In collaboration with CASP (Colorado Air & Space Port) and the Control Tower, Operations Manager, Adrian Tansing, and Engineering Manager, Andrew Piotti, also presented in front of a group of 30 high school students over in the US.

And we didn’t stop there…

For STEM enthusiasts out there, in May, a Reaction Engines team hosted the Witney U3A group to share what we do, the latest developments in the industry, and show them our technology. This group of STEM enthusiasts had a tour around our facilities and chatted with experts about our current and future technologies.

Mechanical Design Engineer, Daniel Nixon, said: “It was lovely being part of the visit from the University of the Third Age, as it was an opportunity to get others as excited about our work as I am! They posed interesting questions throughout and offered useful insights based on their own experiences; it just goes to show it’s never too late to be enthusiastic about the future.” 

For those transitioning out of the Armed Forces, in June, Systems and Test Engineer, Martin Chaillet, gave a fascinating presentation entitled “Towards Zero Emissions – how Reaction Engines is enabling hydrogen” as part of the Career Transition Partnership’s Virtual Employment Event series.

In September, a group of colleagues visited the REME Museum in Lyneham to discuss future careers at Reaction Engineers with highly motivated, talented, and professionally qualified service leavers and veterans. Production Planning Manager, Harvey Thomas, said “The day was a great success, with us encountering many determined and highly skilled individuals who exemplified the commendable qualities associated with British Army service. Recognising the challenges in transitioning from military to civilian life, we were pleased to provide support and guidance to service members looking to maximise their potential in this new chapter.”

‘Influencing the Influencers’ is an important way for us to empower parents, guardians, and teachers to continue the conversation after the event and in May, teachers from Aylesbury High School visited us at Culham to learn about the different career pathways relevant to their subjects and to observe how their subject is applied practically in business. Research shows that teachers are one of the biggest influencers of young people’s subject and career decisions so through helping teachers further understand the opportunities in STEM, they can raise awareness of opportunities and give advice.

Teacher Encounters are opportunities for the education workforce to spend time with, and learn from, people in industry. This then allows them to fully understand current industry practice and share up to date knowledge and skills with their students. The teachers had the opportunity to tour the facility and interact with amazing people in our business.”