Have you ever wondered what an Environmental Engineer does? Before coming on this excursion, I didn’t know, but now I do. Our excursion took us to Queensland Urban Utilities (QUU) which delivers drinking water, recycled water and sewerage services to more than 1.4 million people in South East Queensland. We met female workers who had combined Civil and Environmental Engineering degrees and learnt about how they use their STEM degrees in the workplace. Interestingly, we were told that when those women were at high school, their current work positions did not exist. I enjoyed the tour of the facilities which showed us the many stages of water treatment and the important operations within the control room. We were given an insight into the workings of the many computers, security cameras, monitors and alarms which are used to treat the water and ensure safe operations. At lunch they served up a delicious array of slices, cupcakes, sushi, sandwiches, wraps, and fresh fruit. Lunch was definitely a highlight for some.
Eliza Parenti. Year 9
In celebration of National Science Week, QUU and Girl Shaped Flames collaborated to offer the opportunity to STEM-enthusiastic CHAC girls to explore the QUU Innovation Hub, where a significant amount of research into cleaning water and sewerage takes place. Throughout the day, we were able to participate in a number of workshops and open panel discussions where we gained further insight into career opportunities following STEM pathways, and more specifically, how critical skills developed in the STEM area could be applied to solving environmental crises in the future, such as the acquisition of clean water. The panellists were very informative in answering our questions on how they came to work for Urban Utilities, through a STEM pathway or otherwise, and their experience with tertiary education. As a part of the workshops, it was extremely interesting to observe how cutting-edge technology was being incorporated into the process of cleaning water, and the effort put in by engineers to ensure that this process is increasingly environmentally sustainable. As a highly enthusiastic STEM student myself, I encourage all girls who are curious about pursuing a career in STEM or environmental conservation to participate if given the opportunity.
Liana Davies, Year 11
We learnt about the function of QUU in getting rid of our waste and providing fresh, clean water for homes in Brisbane, and the challenges in making this an effective and less costly process such as the Annamox bacteria and algae. We toured the facility including the control room where the sewerage plants were monitored, and the chemistry lab where we witnessed algae ‘flocking’. We were given the opportunity to do our own innovating in a ‘mini hack’ which addressed the problem of what our society would look like in 150 years’ time in terms of water. We then had to address the problems we predicted and come up with slightly radical solutions. This was an incredible experience as we saw what our like-minded peers came up with. I am so grateful to have been a part of this excursion and enjoyed it thoroughly.
Hannah Robinson, Year 9
The Girl Shaped Flames excursion was an inspiring, educational and useful program that I and 20 other CHAC girls attended. Not only did we get to tour an Urban Utilities water plant and learn about the many processes and jobs undertaken to successfully run it, we also learnt about their extensive innovations and had an opportunity to brainstorm ideas ourselves. Personally, my favourite part of the day was the interactive panel, where we listened to three inspirational women talk about their tertiary education pathways and the various obstacles they faced. Overall, the day was enjoyable, and I would definitely recommend it to other students.
Alison De La Cruz, Year 9
Personally, this was an amazing opportunity to experience all that was available in this field and grow my problem-solving skills, as we were challenged with designing a sustainable water management solution for 2150. The excursion highlighted the numerous opportunities that are available for women and made us all leave as more confident, empowered, and educated individuals.
Claudia Persal, Year 10
One of the activities was a Q & A session with a panel of three employees, one of whom was a graduate engineer from QUT. All of their stories were extremely eye-opening as they admitted to not knowing what they wanted to do in high school, up until even starting university. This, I feel, is a struggle and stress for many high school students. However, the graduate civil and environmental engineer was the most inspirational to me. She told us her interests through school were maths, physics, chemistry, and HPE. These subjects led her to a career she enjoyed. This cemented my career choice as an engineer because she was interested in the same subjects as I am, and she currently loves her job.
Libby Donnan, Year 9
Our excursion to QUU provided a fantastic opportunity to learn about women in the workforce. Hearing the stories from women in a variety of positions, from graduate engineer to innovations officer to CEO, was incredibly inspiring and empowering. I really enjoyed meeting Jannah, the innovations officer, as she made us all smile with her enthusiasm for each project she showed us. My favourite project was the Anammox plastic carriers which showcased a simple but effective solution to a problem faced by plant workers every day. It proved that ordinary workers that faced these problems came up with the best solutions. Lucille, the social media manager, provided insight into her journey in finding a career for herself. She talked about how her dreams of being a famous author may not have come true but that doesn’t mean she can’t incorporate her love for writing in her everyday life and career. This showed me that my passion can be transferred to so many different jobs particularly in STEM. Overall, it was a fantastic day with lots of laughter and brilliant food.
Liley Smith, Year 9
I loved the excursion to the QUU Resource Recovery Centre. It ignited a passion that I didn’t know I had, and hearing from various women working in engineering and wastewater treatment has inspired me to explore different careers. My favourite part of the day was ideating solutions to challenges that the water treatment business will have to conquer in the coming years. We learned how to brainstorm out of the box ideas that pose a fun challenge to make a reality. I would highly recommend this program to any girl in Years 9-11 who wants to have fun and learn more about career options.
Lily Chippendale, Year 9
The excursion to QUU was a fantastic experience. It allowed me to see all of the different career opportunities in such a broad company. It also allowed me to see how different courses in university could take you through pathways you never thought you would have. Walking around the site and learning about all of the different methods they use to treat the water as well as how much work really goes into treating and distributing the water for half of Brisbane. I am so grateful for the experience and thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Girls Shaped Flames excursion.
Paige Smith, Year 10