Aurelia Hibbert is programme director at Cambridge University Eco Racing where her responsibilities include overseeing the technical, logistical and fundraising parts of the project as well as working on the long term development and stability of the team. The team designs and builds solar powered vehicles to compete in the World Solar Challenge in Australia. Aurelia has just finished the second year of her four year M.Eng. degree at Cambridge and she is now taking a year out to run the team before going back to finish her studies.
“…the key thing, I think, for women wanting to take a similar path is just to persevere. There are teams, courses and companies all over the world looking for intelligent, passionate women to join them…”
Being the difference: Inspiration is just about great engineering
I have always had an interest in maths, science and design and although it took me many years to realise it, engineering is a great combination of these subjects. My first real engineering inspiration was the idea of a sub-Atlantic tunnel, closely followed by my discovery of Thomas Heatherwick. I got into cars through eco racing. For me it’s not about a specific type of object, just great engineering.
Cambridge University Eco Racing (CUER) is a student society at Cambridge University, primarily based in the Engineering Department. I joined the team in my first term and was on the logistics sub-team for the first year. I then undertook a summer research project with the team last year and then was taken under the wing of my predecessor Aleksi Tukiainen in preparation for taking over the team.
As programme director I have a largely outward facing role. I set the long-term plan for the team, liaise with sponsors and mentors, and am there to help team members when problems arise. This is the first year we have been able to fund a full-time programme director, thanks to our partnership with BNY Mellon and I thoroughly intend to prove just how much of a difference it can make to the team.
Leading participation in the World Solar Challenge in Australia – not a technical challenge, but a human challenge
Every two years, CUER competes in the World Solar Challenge (WSC), a 3,000 km endurance competition. The team, me included, will be out in Australia for most of September and October this year and aim to complete the whole course from Darwin to Adelaide for the first time. This is likely to put us in the top 10 / 15 teams in the world, with 48 teams competing this year.
The WSC is not only a technical challenge but a human challenge. The drivers will face hours in the car in about 35 degree heat at times and we have to transport all our kit, tools and supplies with us.
For me, taking a year out is giving me so many wonderful opportunities to learn some of the non-academic skills that are so important to success in industry. I am learning about managing real projects, working closely with engineering firms such as Jaguar Land Rover and TTP, and developing my public speaking skills among many other things.
Wanted: Intelligent, passionate female engineers to tackle global energy challenges
Once I have completed my degree, I would like to work on sustainable building design, helping to develop low cost housing with little to no negative environmental impact. I think this is something we really need to sustain life on Earth, especially with a quickly growing population. This will utilise much of the low energy systems experience I have from CUER and will allow me to continue working with innovative materials and technology.
I have been very fortunate in not facing any barriers to getting in to engineering / automotive and the key thing, I think, for women wanting to take a similar path is just to persevere. There are teams, courses and companies all over the world looking for intelligent, passionate women to join them.