Top engineering student returns from France

2 September 2010


Engineering woman: Waikato University student Bayleigh Petchell.

Waikato University student Bayleigh Petchell has just returned from the International Institute of Women in Engineering Summer programme in France.

The university’s Department of Science and Engineering helped fund the trip, as well as the New Zealand France Friendship Fund.

Petchell, who is completing a Bachelor of Engineering with Honours, was one of 18 female engineering students from around the world at the event. She says the trip was an amazing experience, and believes that engineering is a profession for any gender.

“Young women don’t realise that engineering is an excellent career choice.” She says engineering is often still seen as a man’s profession, but women “bring a different mindset to engineering”.

Petchell says she receives a lot of support from Waikato University lecturers, and the small class sizes work to her advantage. The Faculty of Science and Engineering is accredited by IPENZ (Institute of Professional Engineers NZ) so Bayleigh’s degree will be recognised internationally.

The university has also provided Petchell with work placement opportunities as part of her degree, including working at award-winning Stainless Design in Hamilton, Quality Environmental Consulting in Cambridge, and with ABB working on the hydro dams on the Waikato River.

The engineering degree also allows Petchell to work to her strengths in maths and science. “It teaches you a whole new way of thinking, one that I’ve found really valuable. The ability to think logically yet solve problems in a creative way is a great skill whether or not you actually end up in a typical engineering role.”

On top of the trip to Paris, she has received a scholarship from Energy Education Trust and an award from the Association for Consulting Engineers NZ for excellence in engineering report writing.

With her sights set on working in the power generation industry, Petchell hopes to use her degree to help others. “Young women often want to help people and engineering is one way to do this. You can potentially help more people by being an engineer than by being a doctor or a teacher.” She says this was reaffirmed by the chief engineer at UNESCO who reminded the women on the Paris programme that it is “engineers who will save the world”.

Latest stories