Despite always being interested in ‘what made things work’ Diane Arthurs was discouraged at school from pursuing a career in engineering and told instead to think about getting office studies qualifications. But now, after a decade-long career in schools, focussing on Special Educational Needs teaching, Diane is helping to change lives as the newest member of our innovative engineering and technology team.
While many people will know us for our client assessment and services, training and learning work – innovation, technology and engineering expertise is an integral part of the success and impact of our AT & AAC work.
As part of our support for STEM learning and International Women in Engineering Day (23 June 2019) we wanted to celebrate her work and inspiration.
After specialising in foreign language teaching in special educational need settings, Diane initially joined Ace Centre as a Communication Consultant – assessing and supporting clients with their communication needs. While out in the field, she has become increasingly interested in the communication technology itself and how to make it more accessible and effective.
Now, with our full support and encouragement, Diane is about to complete an HNC in Mechanical and Production Engineering at Preston College /UCLAN – as a mature student and the only woman on the course. And she’s riding high – securing distinctions in all her modules so far.
“Looking back, engineering and associated skills have always been part of my life – problem solving, creating, fixing. I just didn’t have the opportunity to express or pursue it in formal terms.”
Diane’s had a fascinating route into engineering; she got her HGV licence to enable her to drive and maintain a 7.5 tonne motor home when taking a family friend from Lancashire to Southern Europe to aid his health. While developing her career in special needs education she continued an interest in manufacturing by marrying it with creativity – designing and producing intricate stained glass lamps and window panels in her spare time.
She’s now turning those skills to help our clients in their day to day lives. She’s currently working on developing a more intuitive and practical head switch mount which enables users to control and direct their communication device more effectively and practically (see image). She is also keen to raise awareness of Rehabilitation Engineering and to develop her progression in the profession.
“Our work at the Ace Centre is more than every day communication – we’re also helping people to get their opinions heard, to take control of their environment and achieve their own ambitions – it’s great to be bringing my language and educational skills and harnessing technology and engineering to help people in this way.”
For International Women in Engineering Day 2019 Diane wants to use her story and her work to motivate more girls to see engineering as a potential and inspirational career and not to face the barriers and prejudice she felt as a school girl.
Challenging the presumption that engineering and technology is ‘for boys’ and toolkits are ‘boys toys’ is a particular interest. Exploration and engineering isn’t limited to the day job – Diane is an expert caver discovering and surveying new cave systems where nobody has been before.