Case Study: Joshua Macabuag
“You are always learning and you are always challenging your levels of knowledge … engineering is so intertwined with the people that you are working with and the communities that you are working with …”
When Joshua was growing up he always had a desire to be useful, to help others. He enjoyed maths and physics and was the first one on his family to go past their GCSEs. Like many young people he was not sure what step to take next but he decided to try university.
“I was felling my own way, coming from a generation where we could go from GCSE to A-Levels to University, that was a bit of an experiment. I really enjoyed university!”
He doesn’t recall having many role models when growing up except his father who was a car mechanics. The practical approach and working on physical projects which naturally happens in car mechanics quickly became engrained on him.
According to Joshua, one of the key drivers of engineering is that final physical output:
“That is a real life impact that is what kept me in engineering, engineering for me is having a real world impact”
He also volunteered for a year in rural South Africa. That year was an eye-opener for him as he saw how engineering is crucial to improve the lives of many people by building roads, buildings and other infrastructures.
Disaster risk Engineering
Joshua is a disaster risk engineer, meaning that he uses mathematical models to try to predict how often natural disasters such as hurricanes or tsunamis can occur and how likely these natural phenomena are to damage buildings and affect local populations.
It about making informed decisions in case of uncertainty: you can’t get information about every single building a city so you have to make assumptions and make decisions based on those assumptions.
The damage that earthquakes and hurricanes do to buildings is very different as Joshua explains:
During an earthquake, as the ground shakes, the building also wants to shake due to its inertia. And the movement of the building and its own weight is what causes the force that then breaks the structure and collapses.
A hurricane is very different. It has very strong winds so you have an external force applying to your building and that force will try to lift up the roof, for example. As the wind passes through your structure it causes an uplift force. The air can get quickly trapped inside of the building which creates a pressurisation that leads to an outwards force that can be strong enough to lift the entire roof or tiles.
Joshua runs his models for the world bank which uses his predictions to lend money to countries to improve poverty.
Finding a way or make one
Josh is also a search and rescue engineer for SARAID which is a group of volunteers that helps finding people trapped in collapsed buildings. Their moto is “Finding a way or make one”. Josh needs to be observant and resilient as this is a difficult task.
If there is anybody trapped inside of the collapsed building you’ll have minutes to decide the best way to access and extricate those people. You don’t really have anything other than what you can see with your eyes.
So for Josh is all about get as much information as possible:
The first thoughts are is there any big beams inside and where are they likely to be and what did that building looked like originally.
In a way Josh assessing the past present and future of the structure: what is made of, where did it moved to and what would happen next (if it fails further).
Once these questions are answered the next step is making sure that the structure is temporarily stable, lifting an shifting of heavy items, breaching and breaking through slabs or walls and carrying out first aid to stabilise any casualties.
In rescue there not going to be any time to run computer models. Calculations in your mind, intuitive judgements based on sound engineering principles.
Teamwork is essential
During a search and rescue event, Joshua and other engineers are part of a broader team of professionals which include technicians, team leaders, medical staff. All the different teams need to come together quickly and collaborate and communicate effectively. This is why Joshua thinks that no matter which branch of engineering you are in, teamwork and being collaborative is very important skill:
Engineering, as a profession is made up of a spectrum of people, so you have those who are outgoing naturally extroverted team players and you have those who prefer to work on their own in isolation […] I had to learn the team player aspect of it […] for an engineer to be effective they end up leaning towards teamwork and working closely with others because a) it makes a better outcome and b) its enjoyable and it’s how you learn and it’s how you make friends and it’s how you get the most out of the profession, which is already very rewarding…
Case Study: Ellie Gangel
Ellie did her GCSEs at Longbenton, and stayed on for A-levels in Maths, Business, IT and Psychology. At the time she didn’t have strong ideas about where she was headed, and for the most part pursued the subjects she’d done best in. She chose IT because it’s a broad skill, and she thought it’d be useful to have.
After Longbenton she moved to Newcastle College for a Level 3 Vocational qualification in Business, but after a year she heard about the apprenticeship programme offered by Accenture.
You never really think there are good apprenticeships out there, but we’re college-funded, university degree funded, we still get paid at the same time. It’s a really good company to work for.
At Accenture, she’s working on a project for HMRC. Her team gets a design sent to them, then they code a system which generates tax codes and national insurance systems. As an apprentice, she draws on support from her manager and her manager in turn, but also on a ‘buddy’ — a more experienced programmer who can help out as problems crop up day-to-day. It’s clearly a supportive environment.
It’s the problem solving which makes me enjoy working with the taxes.
After her apprenticeship, Ellie wants to stay with Accenture, progressing within the company. She’s particularly interested in their work with the UK healthcare sector.
Apprentice Software Developer, Accenture
attention to detail, loyalty, problem-solving, resilience
A-Levels, Apprenticeship, Vocational
Case Study: Caitlin Pugh
Originally from Doncaster, Caitlin began a BSc degree course in Physics & Astrophysics at Northumbria University in 2014.
In year 12, Caitlin studied Physics, Maths, Chemistry, Biology and General Studies AS Levels. She carried on with Physics, Maths and Chemistry to A2. Physics was her favourite subject:
“I find it fascinating how much we know about the universe, and equally how much there is still to learn. It’s such a fast-developing subject and I want to play some part in it. To me, physics is the most important subject, and that’s why I chose it.”
As for her studies at Northumbria:
“I am really enjoying the course, it’s structured well and our grades come from a mixture of exams and coursework. Most of the content so far has been consolidating the things I learned at A level and then taking them slightly further. I have enjoyed this because I expected to be thrown in at the deep end and swamped with work from the start, however the course really eases you in and lets you settle into uni life before becoming more challenging.
“One of the best things about studying here is the support available, I know where to find my tutors and I know they will be happy to help if I’m having a problem with the content. If you send them an email, they always respond quickly and with helpful advice. Also, there are no shortage of places to sit and work or just to sit and talk to your course friends.”
Caitlin might stay on for a Master’s course after her BSc degree — an extra year of study that’s more about independent learning than a taught course, and is often a stepping-stone to a research career. She’s looking to use her astrophysics knowledge, so her dream job would be working for a space agency, but before she has to make any decisions she has a year in industry as part of her course. So everything could change!
Caitlin’s advice for others
“Choose something you enjoy, but also something that opens lots of doors. University is a huge investment, not just of money, but time as well. There’s no point studying a subject for three years that you might really enjoy, but then at the end of it not being able to find a good job afterwards. I chose Physics because I know that even if I don’t get a Physics-related job when I graduate, I’ve still gained an array of useful skills that employers look for. Choosing a degree subject should be a balance between what you enjoy and what is going to benefit you the most in the future.”
Undergraduate Physics student at Northumbria University
When not in the lab or lecture theatre, Caitlin watches a lot of Netflix, drinks a lot of tea, and sits in the kitchen chatting to her flatmates. Sometimes all at once.
Her favourite topic within physics:
“Particles, Waves and the Big Bang. We learned about what the universe was thought to have been like tiny fractions of a second after the Big Bang, and what’s caused it to be the universe we know today.”
curiosity, passion, resilience
A-Levels, Degree, Physics, Physics
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