The Face of Engineering Festival at The Common Room Newcastle

 This is an advert for May 2023. Any edits/shares beyond this have not been asked or paid for. 

The Common Room is a unique heritage venue in the heart of Newcastle. Located next to Newcastle Central Station, they run regular events which celebrate our region's engineering history with a vision to inspire the next generation of innovators and engineers. 

During school holidays, they run special events, workshops and lectures for young people and children. These are usually completly free (although donations are welcome) and offer something a little different to the usual days out in Newcastle. 

Previous events for us have included a FREE Rock Showman Science Lecture, a FREE Interactive Mining History Lecture, FREE Interactive Exhibitions (including a 'live' monitoring station of Newcastle's pollution levels) and a FREE Geology Workshop. All of these events were educational, fun and friendly. We loved them. 

I know career aspirations can change, but two of my children really fancy a career in the engineering industry. Dee would love to work with computers in some way and Jack wants to do something in the world of maths but they both aren't quite sure on the specifics yet (which is fair enough - they are only 12 and 14).

Previous event at The Common Room

I think attending events at The Common Room has definitely opened their worlds to some possibilities & different careers they hadn't thought about and demonstrated what kind of opportunities are out there, especially in the North East. 

I can't be the only one who feels like career advice is really lacking for our young people in schools and the chance for kids to chat with real life industry experts and engineers who work here in the North East is priceless.

Even if you don't think your kids are interested in engineering, events at The Common Room are open to all, are hands on, fun and engaging. All are welcome and they aim to break down stereotypes to what we might think a typical engineer looks like. 

If you're interested in hearing about future events at The Common Room, make sure you sign up to their mailing list here (scroll to the bottom) :

The Face of Engineering Festival 2023

The Face of Engineering Festival took place at The Common Room in May 2023. It's aim was to challenge sterotypes within the engineering industry, celebrate and share a greater representation of women, people of colour and the LGBTQ+ community plus bring families and young people together to hopefully inspire the future generation of talent in the North East. 

The Common Room are passionate about promoting a diverse workforce in Engineering and the wider STEM sectors. 

There were conferences and school sessions available as part of the festival but this post will focus on the FREE Family Fun Day which we attended on the last day of the festival. 

The Common Room shared that in a 2020 Engineering Survey, just 14.5% of those working in engineering are female so it was great to be able to go along with Dee and was hopefully a step in bumping up these percentages in future generations. 

What Did We Get Up To? 

First of all, the check in process was lush. There was a welcome desk with a super friendly member of staff who explained where everything was, how the day would work and invited the kids (and adults) to choose some complimentary stickers and badges. 

They also explained that photos would be taken at the event and if we didn't want to feature, we could wear a 'no photos' lanyard. This is the first time I have seen this at an event and thought it was an excellent idea and I know it would make some more comfortable. 

Our first stop was a mini 'Brick This' exhibition featuring some fabulous LEGO models of some top North East Landmarks. It's really different seeing them built in LEGO form and was a good introduction to our day. 

All of the activities were self-guided and there was no set format / you didn't have to complete them all. It was the kind of event where you just take a seat at whatever you fancied and if you needed any assistance or had any questions, staff were on hand to help. 

Next, we visited Unipres who provide pressed and assembled steel automotive parts to Nissan Manufacturing and are based in Sunderland. They had a few little challenges set up including this speed and accuracy test below. 

Steve and Dee decided to go head to head and despite Steve leading all of the way, he crumbled under pressure and made a mistake at the last minute meaning Dee (who was cool and steady throughout) was victorious. 

Unipres run a training academy for apprentices (based in Sunderland) which aims to roll out the next generation of automotive experts. The academy has already helped to attract more young females to engineering and hopes to futureproof the North East automotive sector for future generations. 

They had brought some of their academy training equipment along the Family Fun Day and of course we had to have a go. The Virtual Reality Welding was actually harder than it looks and we enjoyed chatting with the staff about how realistic it is and why they use this in their training (saves materials, is cost effective, provides more concise results and is a lot safer). 

They also had an activity table set up where you could design a car of the future. Ours was powered with hydrogen, had seats made out of old clothes that were going to landfill, manual and driverless modes and solar panels on the roof.

My personal addition to this was a mechanism that folded the rear part of the car into the front part - ideal for parking in tight spaces. I wish my car had this now! 

Next up, it was onto a station focused on the wind turbine industry. It was really interesting to read about the North East becoming home to the world's largest wind farm and how big of a project it's going to be as we built our own wind turbine out of LEGO. It certainly piqued Dee's interest.

Then finally we popped into the Map Room to take part in the bridge building challenge and I realised that Dee is just as competitive as I am. She was determined to get to the top of the leaderboard! 

Each group is provided with a piece of cardboard, straws and masking tape and the challenge is to create a bridge that will hold the most weight. On the day of our visit, the current winner held 2.5kg. 

We decided to reinforce our bridge with lots of small triangles (and plenty of masking tape). Dee really took charge of the design and we all chipped in to bring it to life. 

Time for the big test...... 

Our bridge held a respectable 2kg. Not a bad attempt! 

Now you may be thinking that this might not be the kind of thing your 14 year old girl would enjoy but honestly, I would suggest just going in with an open mind.

We all had a brilliant morning and it was super chilled with no pressure. We worked together as a team, challenged each other and definitely all left feeling inspired and proud of the North East Engineering Industry. We felt like we actually spent some quality time together too - much more so than our other activity of the day (clothes shopping). 

We also learned about an Engineering Academy in the North East (which I didn't know existed!) and about the World's Largest Wind Farm Project (work starts this year) which will employ over 400 long term roles at Port of Tyne. 

Hopefully the festival will be back in 2024. It is somewhere I would recommend for all ages. Until then, do keep an eye on The Common Room's 'What's On' page for similar events taking place over the summer holidays (and beyond). 


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