A network of working relationships that stretched far beyond my technical group, a sense of pride and accomplishment, and a unique opportunity to inspire and encourage a new generation of engineers. How does one achieve all that within a few short months? If you asked me that towards the end of last summer, I wouldn’t have had an answer for you. Now I do, the answer is the BT Young Scientist (BTYS) competition that is supported and partly sponsored by Analog Devices Inc (ADI). When asked to get involved with the BTYSteam that was being put together in Limerick, Ireland I wasn’t aware of the impact it would have on me and how rewarding of an experience was in store.
The BTYS is a national science fair type competition in Ireland that runs every year in the capital, Dublin. Thousands enter under four categories of Technology, Social & Behavioural Sciences, Biological & Ecological, Chemical, Physical & Mathematical Sciences. 500 of these entries are shortlisted for the final in Dublin where ADI plays a key role. ADI is one of four gold sponsors and is responsible for deciding and awarding the prize in the Technology Section. Every year a group of (typically) early career employees are chosen from a list of volunteers to be the team that develops and supports the stand in the lead up to the BTYS. The team develops new demos and games as well as revitalizing the existing ones. The project is a voluntary one that involves a lot of work outside business hours and a set budget to be managed by the team. After decades of use, this year the entire stand had to be redesigned from the ground up. Laying neglected in the back of a storeroom for two years left it more than a little worse for wear.
When approached to be involved I jumped at the chance. Having joined ADI as a graduate a year and a half prior, I was still looking for new ways to get involved in projects outside my day job and expand my network. I will admit the stories of great nights out in Dublin played a part in my decision too. This was a chance to grow my network and contribute something different to my day-to-day role. On top of that, it was a chance to gain some early experience in managing a team to complete a project in a given period along with some exposure to balancing a budget. Not things that I would normally do a year and a half into my career after college. There was of course also the chance to do some good and maybe even live the “Engineering Good” motto that has been thrown around in corporate emails. Every past experience with schools outreach programs and volunteering with children has been very rewarding and I was sure this time would be no different.
So off we set on the journey to have a newly designed stand and a host of the new project ready for January in the capital. It was a bumpy road at times with time constantly against us and a shoestring budget left for project materials after the stand was redesigned. The challenge made it even more visceral and enjoyable though and to be honest it would have been less satisfying if it all came easy. We proved ourselves with an open day in the Limerick site before Christmas, graciously hosted by the Catalyst where much of the development had taken place. Then it was time to pack the lorries and vans and head to Dublin...
During the weeklong event that was setting up the stand and running the event, it was a bit of a wild ride. Lack of sleep and long days had energy levels low on Wednesday evening but with thousands of students flooding through the doors Thursday morning, we found a new lease on life, and energy levels soared again. The most stand out moment for me was when I was giving a short presentation to a group on the magnetic sensor we develop in my TG. One young girl stayed on for 30 minutes afterward asking questions and becoming ever more excited. In the end, she told me that she had changed her mind and now wanted to become an engineer, and based on her curiosity and intelligence I strongly believe she will be a great one. That moment alone made the months of work worth it to me.
If you asked me at the end of the week if I would do it again I am not sure what answer I would have given. I was exhausted and just wanted it to be over. But now I am certain I would. The chance to contribute to the continuity of engineering as a discipline and encourage more young people of all backgrounds to believe that they are more than capable of great achievements in the field is something I would recommend to anyone.