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Inspiring the Next Generation of Female Engineers


It's not every day you get to see a data centre being built from the ground up – let alone one that's going to play such an important role in powering the cloud.

But that's exactly what four Wenona Year 10 Applied STEM Studies students got to do recently when they toured a construction site for a Next DC data centre in Artarmon.

It was a great opportunity for them to see firsthand how engineering can be used to solve real-world problems and learn about the intricacies of cloud data technology.


Two of the hosts were Wenona alumnae Sarah Fowler (2019) and Abbey Martin (2015), who are employed as consultant engineers on the project and answered questions as part of an all-female panel. "They spoke to us about the civil, structural, hydraulic, mechanical, and geotechnical challenges involved in housing so many computers together. We are grateful to them for showing us around - it was really fascinating," said Charlotte (Year 10).

"It was hard to believe how many specialised engineers required to complete the project and make the data centre as secure as possible," said Nina (Year 10).

The construction of the new data centre is a mind-boggling exercise. The servers are so heavy that each floor of the eight-storey construction must meet the building codes normally required of a 20-storey structure. "Not only that, but because the servers generate so much heat, the cooling system requirements are also state-of-the-art," said Wenona's Director of STEM, Dr Alisha Thompson, who attended the event coordinated with the Director of Student Opportunity and Career Education Miss Samantha McFetridge. The data centre incorporates a seamless backup system so if Ausgrid goes down, it can switch to its own power without downtime, and the fingerprint security system feels even more futuristic.

A joint effort by the Wenona STEM and Careers Departments, the excursion was strongly focused on the benefits of engineering careers for women. One of the most interesting insights was that an engineering degree is not a strict requirement to work in the field. In fact, a former fashion designer was among the engineers on the project panel. The women explained that these less traditional engineers bring unique perspectives and skill sets to the table, that are often highly valued by engineering teams. They also recommended engineering as a stable career - not one of them has experienced a lack of work; in fact, they have been headhunted and recruited at every stage of their journey. The message was that engineering is extremely rewarding and fulfilling and more young women should be considering it - even if they didn't excel in physics class!