Year in Industry student wins CTTB Innovation Prize

Year in Industry student Katie Walker, who works at aerospace engineering company Leonardo, has won the Innovation Prize at the Engineering Development Trust’s Year in Industry ‘Contribution to the Business’ (CTTB) Awards.

Year in Industry
Katie Walker

Katie, who has been accepted to Oxford University to study Physics, went through to the finals due to the quality of innovation she produced on her project to create a tool which can not only design an antenna, but measure how it adapts to different environments. The tool is already being used by the business which employs over 7,000 staff across the UK and it is anticipated that it will offer valuable data which will increase business efficiency while reducing costs.

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The CTTB awards celebrate the achievements of school leavers and undergraduates during their Year in Industry and for the very first time, the semi-finals had to be held virtually due to COVID-19. However Katie was determined to rise to the challenge and found that her experiences working from home at her flat in Edinburgh over the past few months stood her in good stead for her presentation at the semi-finals.

She said: “I’ve spend the past year developing antenna technology and when I had to start working from home due to the pandemic I was speaking to my manager every few days on zoom. I soon realised that you need to heighten your concentration levels and up your energy when you’re relaying ideas remotely, which helped me when I had to deliver my presentation to the judges.”

Over the course of her Year in Industry at Leonardo, managers became impressed at the speed with which Katie acquired new skills including coding in C#, 3D Modelling, and designing interfaces for end users. They also noted that Katie showed great engineering behaviours which are necessary in an industrial environment, including showing resilience in overcoming issues and seeking the expertise of colleagues when needed.

When Katie learned of the Year in Industry opportunity at Leonardo she wanted to apply to gain a first-hand experience of engineering before embarking on her studies, and found that it changed some of the preconceptions she had about engineering.

She said: “I was surprised to meet so many female engineers when I joined Leonardo, as I had imagined that the engineering world was full of men. I also began to understand that engineering is so much more than building things hands-on, it is very creative and you do a lot of work using software and computer programmes to build designs. I like the fact that I also have the freedom to create a solution in a wide range of ways, as long as it is viable.”

Her manager James Pearce said: “After learning about a challenging coding problem using complex 3D geometry, Katie came up with an ingenious solution within minutes. She has become an integral member of our small development team and will be greatly missed when she begins her studies at Oxford University.”