Mary Sowter

When I was 14, I applied for engineering work experience at PA Consulting, and was invited to their technology lab in Cambridge for a full assessment day. I spent two weeks in the lab, whilst there we ended up designing a bowl with integrated scales and a user interface that displayed the calorie and nutritional intake of your meal. I made the CAD model on Solidworks, that was then 3D printed. This fostered a growing interest in engineering.

This same year, I entered a national competition called ‘The Ultimate STEM Challenge’, in my team we investigated how the efficiency of wind turbine are affected by the surface texture of their blades. The final involved presenting to a panel of judges and answering questions from them, in the Science Museum in London. My team won the national competition. 

How did you use your Scholarship funding? 

I put some of the money towards a Head start course at Oxford University. I spent a few weeks exploring the different fields of engineering by using the campus facilities and engaging in mini projects made for us - a Head start course was one of the advised ways to spend the scholarship money. I gained an understanding of the different fields of engineering.

I also purchased an Arduino UNO board, along with electronic components. I taught myself some coding and built a robot that followed a series of pre-programmed movements. This resulted in a robot that scooped sugar into my tea, stirred it and then waved. I really enjoyed this project. I loved adjusting the code and fiddling with the wires, exploring, and learning at my own pace on a completely independent project. My curiosity for engineering blossomed and confirmed it as the career path for me.

What did you gain from your Arkwright Scholarship? (Any stand-out experiences? Did it open any doors for you?)

Whilst studying for my A-levels, I took part in the EES project, researching the feasibility of solar panel installation on Boots warehouses. Our presentation and report persuaded Boots to start installation of solar panels on their stores.

From the scholarship I also gained valuable skills in how to communicate professionally to a company, achieving the Gold CREST Award and Gold Industrial Cadets Award. All my achievements, so far, have been valuable in learning more about engineering and what it would be like for a career.

Not long after I was awarded the Institute of Mechanical Engineers Undergraduate Scholarship. I also attained the IMechE Land Rover Spen King Sustainability Award, which was given to only one scholar.

Having the Arkwright Scholarship helped my application stand out, it also gave me the confidence to apply for another scholarship and hold my own at interviews.

I am now an undergraduate student, studying Mechanical Engineering at Imperial College London. My friends and I have recently applied for the Red Bull Soapbox Race, our design was shortlisted, and we were one out of only 3 student teams selected to have our build fully funded by Red Bull. This was an exciting opportunity, as I watched the race on TV as a child and always thought competing looked fun. During this experience I got to improve my practical skills like MIG welding. This event was perfect for highlighting all the fun things you can do with engineering skills.

Where are you studying now, what subject, and how you are finding it so far?

I am studying Mechanical Engineering at Imperial College London.

I believe the Arkwright Scholarship made my application stand out -  helping me get accepted into this prestigious university. The course is very difficult, but I enjoy the challenge. Being with different types of people but with similar interests is a new but thrilling experience.

Any advice to current Scholars and / or students thinking of applying to Arkwright?

Just apply. I have hade so many amazing engineering experiences since applying - scholarships, work experiences, competitions and so much more. have been countlessly surprised by how many opportunities I have been lucky enough to have, just from having the confidence to try.

Having the Arkwright Scholarship will also open many doors for you, ensure you take advantage of that and throw yourself into anything and everything that interests you.

Arkwright Scholar 2018-2020


Physics, Maths, Biology

Mechanical Engineering, Imperial College London

Student, Imperial College London