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Celebrating International Women in Engineering Day: our contribution to the Gold Award scheme

Corporate Headquarters
Jun 23, 2022 | 5 MINUTE Read

Part of the Education in Engineering Scheme led by the Engineering Development Trust (EDT), the Gold Award is an eight-to-nine month project that businesses and schools across the UK collaboratively participate in. Having been a partner of the Gold Award for over a decade, our Intelligence and Cyber International – EMEA team in Tewkesbury continues to harness this opportunity to drive the STEM agenda forward and get more young people interested in careers that rely on these specialist subjects.

Consisting of roughly 30 teams within the Gloucestershire region alone, the Gold Award pairs up to seven Year 12 students as well as their teacher or mentor with local engineering-focused businesses to give them a real-world experience of engineering. Over the duration of the project, the students are supported in developing a concept from brief to completion, producing a compelling presentation on their implementation plan, and reporting back on the project’s results.

What is L3Harris’ involvement?

Our Gold Award projects, which typically run from September to the following spring, are born out of several briefs or concepts proposed by our engineering team to the students, who are then asked to choose their favourite, if timescales allow. These concepts and the skills required for the project are outlined by L3Harris about a month prior to the start of the Gold Award period, accompanied by a visit to the local school to assess the participating students. Once the concept is decided upon, L3Harris provides a full brief so the students can begin their work.

Previous projects have included sensors to track footfall within a building during emergency scenarios and a warehouse retrieval robot designed and coded virtually during the pandemic.

Delivered by a team of seven Year 12 female students from Cheltenham Ladies’ College, with whom we also partnered in 2021, this year’s project was originally intended to be a water rescue reconnaissance vehicle. This quickly evolved into a pollution serving system that could be released into bodies of water to analyse water pollution levels. The students trialled this in their school pond before researching and implementing sessions in other bodies of water.

Led by Engineer Alix Longmuir, Software Engineer Sam Price, and managed by Senior Engineer and Early Careers Group Team Lead, Alice Roizer, L3Harris oversaw the entire project, providing regular mentoring sessions to ensure students were engaged and the work stayed on track. The team was also joined by a few of our Industrial Placement Engineers, Jamie Haslam and Tyler Bowcock, who contributed to various engineering talks and attended in-person sessions with the students.

“Gold Project is EDT's longest standing programme, running for over 35 years. L3Harris has been working with EDT and supporting the Gold Project for the last decade,” said Malgosia Kapala, Education and Events Lead – Southern for EDT. “Via their Gold Project support, the L3Harris team has made this experience possible for numerous students, giving them opportunities for a brighter future; something that EDT is extremely grateful for.”

Real-world engineering experience for students

By participating in the Gold Award, students get the benefit of applying what they’ve learned in their academic studies to a real-world project outside of the school environment. What’s more, they take full ownership of the project, helping them to develop important teamwork, problem-solving and analytical skills. They also get the opportunity to meet a diverse range of different companies and gain an insight into how these work, as well as honest, candid feedback on their efforts and ideas from industry experts.

Mrs. Ruth Levings BSc, Physics Teacher at Cheltenham Ladies’ College, said, “I think the Gold Industrial Award is one of the most powerful things that we offer the girls in college: they learn so many transferable skills, so much about the engineering process and profession as well as about themselves and what is possible for them to achieve.” 

Importantly, this exposure to day-to-day engineering helps students better understand the careers they’re potentially deciding to pursue. Throughout the initiative, they can experience many aspects of engineering, from software to product management to application development, and so on. Even if they ultimately decide that engineering isn’t for them, the process helps them to learn new, relevant skills that could be applied to many other future careers.

"Working with L3Harris has helped widen my scope on engineering and its different disciplines,” one student said. “I was originally looking at engineering through the perspective of civil and structural engineering, but after doing the project I have gained insight on mechanical and software engineering and furthered my interest."

2022’s project was finalised in April, with the Gold Award qualification now having been received by all of the students who participated. The group has also since been nominated for the ‘Best Teamwork’ Award, and were recipients of the ‘Most Innovative Project’ Award last year.  

A rewarding achievement for our people

Aside from enabling young people to experience an engineering-led project first-hand, the Gold Award offers a fantastic opportunity for members of our business still in the early stages of their careers to hone their leadership skills by acting as a mentor to the students. It’s a chance for them to step outside their comfort zones and be a part of something a bit different to the day-to-day working environment.

A big highlight for our team is being able to work with students as passionate about engineering as we are. “I wish I had had the opportunity to do something like this when I was in school,” Alix Longmuir stated. “Not only is it a very enjoyable process, but if I’d been able to see female representation in engineering and get the chance to speak to them about their own experiences, it would have given me a huge boost in confidence when considering this career.”

From start to finish, the Gold Award is great fun to be involved in and highly educational for the young people who participate, particularly because they’re enabled to interact with and learn from engineers in a safe and controlled setting. At the end of the process, each student is presented with their own individual award as acknowledgement of their contribution to the project’s success. The Gold Award has had such a significant impact in previous years that we’ve even been fortunate enough to have hired a few students off the back of our involvement.

We hope to remain involved in the scheme for many years to come, and wish all of the female students involved in this year’s project a very Happy International Women in Engineering Day.