Doubly ambitious

20 January 2012

(L-R) Kate and Ainslie Thompson aspire to be engineers after high school.
(L-R) Kate and Ainslie Thompson aspire to be engineers after high school.

Kate and Ainslie Thompson share birthdays, looks and an aspiration to become engineers when they finish school next year.

The identical twins from Bundaberg State High School are among 23 students attending this year's Indigenous Australian Engineering Summer School (IAESS) at the University of Sydney. Established in 1998 by Engineering Aid Australia, the annual event introduces Year 11 and 12 Indigenous students from across Australia to engineering and the wide range of opportunities an engineering degree offers.

Ainslie applied for this year's IAESS, hosted at the University, to get a better idea of which area of engineering she would like to pursue. Her sister Kate wants to find out which branch of the discipline will enable her to combine environmental work with engineering. Both were also attracted to the idea of meeting new people and getting a better grasp of university life.

"[The school] gets you used to university so you know what to look forward to when you get here," says Kate.

Ainslie, Kate and their fellow students are spending the week visiting engineering sites at the RTA, Garden Island and Qantas, and partaking in fun activities that engage their penchant for engineering. They began the week with a Float the Boat contest. Led by final year mechanical engineering student Philip Qin, five groups of students were given 'money' to 'buy' components such as paddle pop sticks, polystyrene cups and balsa wood to make a floating device. Each entry was assessed according to dollars spent to build it and weight capacity. Other activities include operating remote-controlled robots, riding a flight simulator and conducting a railway signalling exercise.

Senior lecturer at the School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering and academic overseer of this year's program Dr Douglass Auld says the school gives students an indication of the level of dedication to theoretical study required to become an engineer. "You need to keep up your maths and science if you want to be an engineer. It's not just about maintaining cars."

The IAESS runs in January each year. Australian universities with engineering faculties share the job of hosting it with the University of Sydney taking the helm this year and in 2013.

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