This is a guest post and part of our ongoing Student Life series

When I first started at the University of Wollongong, I saw all the amazing opportunities that are offered through an Engineering degree, however, I was certain that they were all too impressive for me. When I was in school, I heard about the Solar Decathlon and was absolutely in awe of the Illawarra Flame Team who built a net zero, sustainable house in China! I decided that if I ever got the opportunity, I would join the team. So when I heard about the Desert Rose Team (the next Solar Decathlon Team from UOW) in my first year, I was quick to sign up. Joining this interdisciplinary team was the start of my involvement with extra-curricular life at UOW. Through the Desert Rose Team, I was exposed to so many other opportunities and began to understand that I could achieve anything I put my mind to. Through this team, I did something I never thought possible, I assisted in the design and construction of an entire, real-life house, I flew to Dubai and led the Interior Design Team to 1st place and our Desert Rose Team was placed 2nd overall! I also had the opportunity to complete a subject “Scholars Research Project” through the Solar Decathlon, which built on my knowledge and allowed me to meet academics who have interests similar to mine.

I also found out about an incredible opportunity to complete a subject called “Humanitarian Engineering”. Through this subject, I worked as an Assistant Project Manager on a Humanitarian Engineering project in Rwanda. We spent the entire semester developing the project, raising funds and talking to the stakeholder. We then flew to Rwanda and completed our project. Whilst I was in Rwanda, I was asked to talk to year 6 school students to empower them to pursue careers in STEM.

When I returned from my two amazing experiences, I was incredibly inspired to pursue more opportunities at UOW and utilise the skills I had learnt. I was lucky enough to be the student representative on the team who put forward a new engineering major (architectural engineering), I talked to the Deputy Vice-Chancellors team on the importance of interdisciplinary work and I talked to new university scholar students about the key things I wish I had known when I commenced university. I continued my passion for STEM empowerment by being a Group Leader at the UOW STEM Camp for Girls, by taking on the role of STEM ambassador and acting as a tutor for a first year Engineering subject.

I am extremely grateful for my involvement in the Solar Decathlon and Humanitarian Engineering, both of which allowed me to chase further opportunities and build on myself and the world around me. I was privileged to attend the International Women’s Day Lunch run by Engineers Australia, where I heard from real-life engineers and they inspired me to continue working to develop STEM in our community and search for further opportunities to impact the world.


Words by Meg Cummins (Bachelor of Civil and Environmental Engineering)