STUDENTS from Glasgow University are travelling to Rwanda to inspire a future generation of girls to take up engineering.

Fourth year Ellen Simmons set up FemEng at Glasgow University to encourage and support girls into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects.

Now the group is headed to Africa to lend their skills and experience with a team of Rwandan counterparts.

Ellen said: "It is usually when pupils get to about 16 that they are encouraged away from STEM subjects, both at home and by teachers in school.

"Higher Physics, for example, is predominantly male and that will stop a lot of girls from studying the subject.

"But in Rwanda the situation is further complicated by the fact girls are expected to stay at home and take on caring duties. Perhaps not in the cities but certainly in more rural areas.

"Travelling to university or living away from home is prohibitive and also there can be a lack of access to sanitary products, which means girls are missing school one week in four.

"It's very hard for them to keep up."

FemEng Rwanda has gained backing from companies such as Western Ferries, Dyson and CH2M.

University College Dublin has also loaned the group a 3D printer to show girls they will work with the practical applications of subjects.

The group will be based in the University of Rwanda in Kigali and will work with a team of eight girls from Green Hills Academy.

Ellen added: "We are limited in terms of knowing exactly how girls in Rwanda are being held back from engagement in STEM and although we have been given a fair amount of insight from Rwandans we've met within Scotland, one of the main objectives of the project this year is to gain reliable knowledge of how best to increase gender equality in the field, in terms of Rwandan students.

"We hope that by doing this, we will also learn useful information to apply to the situation in the UK as well."

The team is hoping to raise £4000 for the trip, which will allow them to support their Rwandan peers to stay on at university for the extra four weeks in the summer that the project is running.

The FemEng Rwanda group is: Jess Níc Shuibhne, fourth year Aeronautical Engineering; Ellen Simmons, fourth year Biomedical Engineering; Brogan Gauld, second year Mechanical Engineering; Nina Birchard, second year Product Design Engineering; Anna Robb, second year Product Design Engineering; Catriona Holland, second Year Mechanical Engineering; Rebecca Hunter, second year Product Design Engineering; and Magda Kowalska, fourth year Computing Science.

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