EW BrightSparks 2023 profile: Imogen Cole, Leonardo

Author: EIS Release Date: Jan 22, 2024

Now in its sixth year of awards, EW BrightSparks sees Electronics Weekly highlight and celebrate some of the brightest and most talented young engineers in the UK today.

Here, in our series on the latest EW BrightSparks of 2023, we highlight Imogen Cole, a Technical Apprentice at Leonardo UK.

Imogen is nearing the end of her first year working at Leonardo, which she describes as “a challenging year of hard work and exposure to this fantastic industry”. Her previous career had involved numerous jobs and roles, including serving as a police officer. She decided, however, to pursue her interest in STEM and the aviation sector and applied for an apprenticeship with Leonardo.

She is on a Level 3 technical apprenticeship, a scheme in which she will complete PEO level 2, BTEC and technical apprenticeship standard, while also working in the business in several placements across a year rotation. She has also been studying a degree with The Open University full time alongside her apprenticeship. Her degree is Combined STEM, physics and electronics in a 75% – 25% split, as this will be the most relevant to her work at Leonardo.

EW-BrightSparks-4-300x200.jpgImogen has worked across two systems team, working on classified projects. Some of her achievements that can be shared include working independently to develop a discrete package of work involving network security to support a project milestone. In addition, she is currently working on test procedures and analysis using MatLab, gaining practical laboratory skills for unit testing.

She has been working hard, we learned, to develop her technical skills and make active contributions to project outcomes and to adjust to a more corporate work culture.

She also highlighted that she has sought opportunities to better herself. For example, the site where she is located has a lab called the Innovation Hub. This lab was created as a space for use by employees while learning new skills. The lab has grown over time with of 3D printers, soldering stations, pillar drill and a CNC machine. The lab is frequently used for home projects, learning and development, prototyping and STEM/innovation events. Imogen has recently taken over as lab manager.

This role, she told us, has given her the responsibility of meeting risk and COSHH assessments, commissioning new equipment, ordering tools and equipment, maintaining the space health and safety requirements, promoting, and implementing new ideas.

“This industry is fantastic,” she wrote, “it allows for creativity thinking and innovation to improve lives and make the world a better place for us all to live in”.

Imogen is also regularly involved with various “extracurricular” activities both in and out of Leonardo.

For example, for charity, she led the team that organised and ran the “walking challenge” internally at Leonardo, which involved teams from company sites across the UK recording their steps.

The event has been incredibly successful this year, with nearly 400 entries and almost £2,500 raised for cancer research. She ended up leading the task and organising workloads among the team, for example setting up the SharePoint website, responding to emails, and monitoring entries and donations. Employees really enjoy the challenge, she highlighted, and it promotes a healthier lifestyle while raising money.

Imogen also regularly attended STEM events held at schools in her local area. These normally involve giving a career presentation, talking about Leonardo, and leading or supporting an engineering task or challenge. She told us she loves going to these events: “I think they are so important, especially for young girls to be exposed to the industry. I never had anything like it when I was at school – often leading me to wonder what I would have done differently if I had such opportunities!”

She is also in the process of organising various STEM days and presentations with local Air cadet groups. She served in the cadets as a teenager so knows that these groups are a great target audience for STEM information and also Leonardo careers talks.

She also supported Girls Into Engineering 2023, leading Leonardo’s input. This involves a three day residential event, where 100, Year 10 students from around the UK come to Loughbourgh University and take part in an activity planned by Leonardo and another organisation. Imogen has been leading the team of other volunteers from Leonardo to create the activity and run it at the event.

The girls will solder four PCB-based sensors, program them using an Arduino, attach them to a remote control car, and test the car. The preparation for the event involves designing the PCBs and organising manufacturing, source components, creating guides, creating a master Arduino code, creating handouts and presentation, and 3D printing frames needed for the remote control car.

This has been a big project, she told us, using a variety of skills. “This is a cause I am very passionate about, and look to be involved with other events promoting girls/women into engineering!”

Also, Leonardo has a project called “Fit for the Future”, involving four sub groups, including one being innovation. This theme looks for way to promote innovation within Leonardo. Imogen, and a member of the Strategic Leadership Team, lead the innovation theme. She joined the theme as it links closely to her lab manager role in the innovation hub lab, mentioned previously. Through her involvement she is refreshing the innovation hub lab and focusing on promoting use of the space and its equipment.

She is currently also in the progress of organising the latest innovation activity: Rampaging chariots. This is where employees build a robot and compete in several competitions, like tug of war or an assault course.

It will be the second time the event has been run, she says, and they are looking to put an “environmental” theme on the next event. She is looking to implement this, for example, by using recycled materials for the robot, solar powered batteries and using PET from water bottles as 3D printing filament. This event will be UK wide and look to involve other organisations like the UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl).

Finally, Imogen and a group of apprenticeship are looking to run a “micro-mouse maze” challenge in early 2024, to bring together software and electrical early careers.