This month Jenny Roberts – Project Engineer at Lancaster University has been chosen as the July 2015 recipient for the SOLIDWORKS Women in Engineering Recognition Program. She was chosen based on her leadership and expertise in Additive Manufacturing and Mechanical Design. Her world-leading research support at Lancaster University extends to providing supervision, guidance, and mentoring for undergraduate students. Jenny is an advocate for the engineering community and serves as an inspiration for young students.
Her Background: Jenny started as a student taking design technology at school and didn’t know what engineering was until a teacher introduced her to the subject. She had been interested in crafts and design at an early age and always enjoyed the creation process. Even in her youth she knew engineering was what she was really captivated by. Jenny graduated from Lancaster University with a Masters of Engineering Honours in Mechatronic Engineering. Work experience was gained as she went on to DCA Design International as a Junior Mechanical Engineer and later Playdale Playgrounds as a Design Engineer. Jenny then started her own business Sprocket DC Ltd.
Sprocket DC Ltd: After gaining some experience from previous jobs and relocating, Jenny decided she was ready for a new challenge. She started her own business Sprocket DC Ltd as she wanted to be able to pick her own projects and possibly get into the medical device and assisted technology industry. After the first year she had built up her credibility and was able to grow her business. As a single person running all aspects of the company, she faced some challenges as she had to be the accountant, secretary, salesperson, and design engineer just to name a few! She explains her role as wearing many new hats with a lot of her time spent on roles that were not engineering-based. One of her biggest challenges at the time was networking and selling others on her business to find new clients. One of the biggest rewards was being shortlisted two years in a row for the Red Rose Creative Business of the Year Award. The Red Rose Awards are run by Business View Magazine and comprise of an interview and presentation for finalists to showcase their creative businesses.
Advice for Entrepreneurs: Jenny’s advice is to “try to get a bit of experience first” in the industry or business. She recommends to “learn what they (the business) do well and what they do badly” before starting out on your own. She said it is a very rewarding process to create designs for clients and receive that first return on your product. Jenny said to most definitely “go for it!”
Product Development Unit at Lancaster University: Jenny currently works in the Engineering Department at Lancaster University with European Regional Development Funding to
assist Small and Medium Enterprises with their product development needs. A company will come to her team with an idea and she helps with the detailed design work, research into the product and opportunities, and enables the company to grow their idea to eventual manufacture when they may not have the resources or facilities. Some past projects have included insulation screws, novel cell culture growing devices and chocolate molds.
One of her most exciting projects is creating mini 3D models of people. She used a 3D scanner to create a model of herself along with an Ultimaker 2 3D printer. This project experimented with printing with a flexible filament. Earlier this year, the new Lancaster University Chancellor (Rt Hon Alan Milburn) was scanned using a 3DS Sense Scanner and then a SLA (stereolithography) bust of his scan was produced and presented to him later in the day. This 3D scan technology uses an IR sensor and transmitter and webcam to capture and record the model and is the same technology seen in a Nintendo Wii or Xbox Connect. She plans to continue testing the 3D scan capabilities into the future.
Working with SOLIDWORKS: “I use SOLIDWORKS all the time. I learned SOLIDWORKS at University and then had formal training in my first job. I’ve used it pretty much on a daily basis ever since. When I have a concept design I usually start with pencil and paper to sketch out a few ideas, but I very quickly go over to CAD. Then I do everything using SOLIDWORKS from concept generation right through to detailed design such as producing engineering drawings, looking at tolerances, and using some of the analysis features. FEA (Finite Element Analysis) is one of the tools I use quite often to make sure parts are strong enough and to see if there are any stress raisers in the design.”
Mentoring: Jenny has mentored students through her University since working at Sprocket DC. Undergraduate students at Lancaster University can be mentored by industrialists and Jenny had mentored in this way as an entrepreneur and many times since joining the University herself. She has mentored both male and female engineers that are looking for some assistance with their career, job applications, and advice. Some of her mentees she now considers her close friends.
Any issues faced in a male dominated industry?: “I’ve always felt just as valued as my male counterparts. The only time I ever felt I had to prove myself was when my desk was next to an older guy, another design engineer, and he had worked his way up from an apprenticeship. He had started his career working on the shop floor and subsequently taken a very different route than myself. I think maybe because of his age and the way he had been brought up, where women in engineering were few and far between, I felt I needed to win his approval, but he very quickly realized that I was serious about engineering and that I understood what I was talking about. I didn’t view myself any different and so I think I gained his respect. I’ve never had any problems being a woman in engineering.”
If you weren’t an engineer, what would you be?: “I absolutely love gardening so I would probably be a gardener. I love planting seeds and seeing them grow. I think it’s fascinating how you can get something edible or beautiful out of such a little tiny seed. Gardening is a bit of a passion for me”
Have someone in mind? You can nominate the next recipient for the SOLIDWORKS Women in Engineering Program, honoring the outstanding achievements that women are accomplishing day to day in the engineering community. Find out more information or get started today!