STEM Spectacular with the First Half-Year’s Most Remarkable Events

June 27, 2023
STEM Spectacular with the First Half-Year’s Most Remarkable Events
A roundup of the events Reaction Engines participated in during the the first half of 2023
At Reaction Engines, we believe it is vital to proactively participate in outreach activities, especially with younger people. 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, with the hope that we might inspire them to say “When I grow up, I want be an engineer.” That is exactly why we love going to schools to share experiences and spread awareness of roles in STEM that could be their future, and we’ve had a busy first half of 2023.

Future Careers

SIYF (Science in Your Future) Careers Fair

In February, Cath Dunleavey, Talent Acquisition Manager, and Sarah Azamtu, Materials Engineer, attended the SIYF Careers Fair at Rutherford Appleton Library. They spoke to 100 female GSCE students about why they chose a career in STEM, their career journey, and what it’s like to work at Reaction Engines.

Speaking about the event, Cath said: “I have attended 4 careers fairs for young people over the last few months & also been involved in a school visit at Culham, all have been really rewarding & a great chance to meet young people & their teachers. The careers fair at Rutherford Appleton Library, in particular, 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! If we can pique the interest of a few young people each time, it will really make a difference.”

Human Library

Barry at Human Library event

In April, Barry Coulling, Head of Manufacturing Operations, participated in a STEM event as his local secondary school.

Barry said: “I was approached by my local secondary school Gosford Hill in Kidlington which I also attended a few years ago now. The event is called “The Human Library” and the idea is that the Year 8 pupils go round in groups of 5 asking the individuals questions about their chosen career, how they got there, what they enjoy most / least etc.

It was a great chance to meet with the young people and explain about engineering and the multitude of roles and ways to enter into a career. 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! The feedback from the school was very positive and the pupils were all very engaging. These outreach opportunities are very rewarding as I feel fortunate to have received opportunities throughout my career and recognise the importance of putting back in.”

Pathways to Engineering

Pathways to engineering logo


In March, The Sutton Trust hosted a panel event called Pathways to Engineering that Graduate Engineer Peter Bates participated in.

Peter said: “It was a really nice event with very bright and curious students who had questions on everything from chartership pathways to uni life. There was a panel discussion followed by lunch with the students where they had the opportunity to ask all the extra questions they were too shy to ask in front of their peers.”

Excellence in Engineering

In May, the Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce hosted a panel event at Culham entitled ‘Excellence in Engineering’ to discuss alternative pathways to engineering careers with Claire Farrow, ED&I Lead, and Mike Whitehead, Engineering Director (Interim) joining the panel.

Other STEM careers talk included:

STEM talk at Swansea University by Arthur Collins, Graduate Engineer. Arthur said: “It was a great, but surreal, experience returning to Swansea University but as a guest speaker, not a student! The talk covered what Reaction Engines do, our history, our Graduate scheme and general advice for students. It was really rewarding being able to tell the students some things I wish I knew while I was studying.”

Careers talk at the Imperial College London by Philip Tzonev, Graduate Engineer. Philip said: “It was a very unique experience to be able to go back to my old university and provide the exact advice and information I wanted when I was studying there. I enjoyed sharing my story and helping students realise what pathways they have after university!”

REI in collaboration with CASP and the Control Tower presented in front of a group of 30 high school students. Thank you to Adrian Tansing, REI Director of Operations and Policy and Andrew Piotti, REI Director for Engineering for getting involved!

Reaching diverse communities

Association for Black and Minority Ethnic Engineers (AFBE) Presentation

Sarah's presentation advert

In April, Sarah Azamtu, Materials Engineer presented to a very engaged group of 8–18-year-olds, organised by the AFBE.

Not only did the attendees find Sarah’s presentation incredibly beneficial but Sarah has also shared how enriching she found it. Sarah said: “The association 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. I was a bit nervous about the lengthy Q&A portion of the webinar at the end, but their questions were quite lovely, and you could tell that the topic excited them!”

Witney U3A Visit

Witney U3A STEM Outreach Visit

In May, we hosted the Witney U3A group at Culham 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.

Daniel Nixon, Mechanical Design Engineer, 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.”

Thank you to Peter Bates, Graduate Engineer, Ben Endicott, Technology Lead (Systems Engineering), Jeanette Lewis, Senior Production Planner, and Pedro Vasconcelos, Mechanical Design Engineer, for supporting.

Career Transition Partnership (CTP) Presentation

Armed Forces Covenant logo

In June, Martin Chaillet, Systems and Test Engineer, gave a fascinating presentation entitled “Towards Zero Emissions – how Reaction Engines is enabling hydrogen” as part of the CTP Virtual Employment Event series.

The CTP provides resettlement services for those leaving the Royal Navy, Army, Royal Air Force and Royal Marines. In this talk, Martin spoke about life as an engineer, whether H2 is a viable energetic solution. Cath Dunleavey, Talent Acquisition Manager, also spoke about the benefits of working for Reaction Engines and the opportunities we offer.

Martin said: “It was a pleasure to present in front of CTP. Sharing my experience at Reaction Engines and having a discussion around H2 in our society was really interesting.”

Using our expertise

STEM Adventures

STEM adventures front cover

As part of our Outreach activities for the year, we wanted to find a way to help and create resources for adults to help their young people engage with STEM. During half term in April, we launched:

“STEM Adventures: Engineering and STEM Activities for Young Minds”

The STEM Adventures pack includes a range of activities that cater to different ages and interests. The activities have been designed to be both educational and fun, encouraging young people and their parents and guardians to explore the world around them and develop a love for STEM subjects. The activities included in the pack are:

Binary Blast! A Computer Coding Challenge

Chemical Rockets Experiment

Newton’s 3rd Law Experiment

Shape Your Imagination with Tangrams

Open the Lock Puzzle

STEM is about being curious, solving problems, and discovering new possibilities. These activities teach engineering principles, logic, and science that we use every day at work through fun activities that can be fun for everyone to try.

You can find STEM Adventures here.


“Influencing the Influencers”

Aylesbury High School ‘Teacher Encounters’ Visit

In May, teachers from Aylesbury High School visited Culham. This initiative provides opportunities for teachers to engage directly with employers to see and 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 though helping teachers further understand the opportunities in STEM, they can raise awareness of opportunities and give advice.

Speaking about the event, Mark Wood, Chief Operations Operating Officer, said: “On the 16th May I had the privilege of welcoming to Reaction Engines six teachers from Aylesbury High School for girls as part of a ‘Teacher Encounters Day’. 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. The intention going forwards is to maintain and strengthen the relationship, supporting further outreach activities.

Thanks go to Claire Farrow, ED&I Lead, Ruta Marcinkeviciute, Graduate Engineer, Carrie Lambert, Head of Sustainability, Jeanette Lewis, Senior Production Planner, and Arthur Collins, Graduate Engineer who organised and supported the day.