Motorsport engineering student has sights set on F1 career
The number of women graduating in core STEM subjects is continuing to rise in the UK and in 2019 University of Wolverhampton student Katie Leverton will join this advancing generation of talent.
The ambitious 21-year-old from Walsall is studying for a degree in Motorsport Engineering, with support from award-winning law firm FBC Manby Bowdler, and is leading the way for female engineers across the Midlands.
As a third year student, a heavy workload awaits in 2019 with dissertation deadlines and practical exams fast approaching, as well as a pivotal role in the University of Wolverhampton Racing team (UWR).
However, the passionate young engineer is undeterred and is already focused on developing her future career prospects.
The University has a proven track-record of almost 100% of its engineering graduates going on to work in the industry they love, including roles with Mercedes F1, AMG Petronas Motorsport, Aston Martin and Rolls Royce. And Katie, who will be the University’s first female to graduate in Motorsport Engineering, has her sights set on equally high standards.
The list of opportunities is endless but vibrant Katie has her aspirations firmly set on a career in Formula One. However, a desk job is not on the list, instead she wants a technical hands-on role which will place her trackside and at the very forefront of the racing action.
She said: “I’d absolutely love to work in Formula One. I get such a buzz from working trackside and the technical challenges it presents. You have to be switched on, quick-thinking and ready to apply your practical skills, which is the bit I’m most passionate about.
“There are also lots of opportunities to travel in Formula One and it would be great to do this whilst I’m young and have no commitments. Then longer term I would like to work for and manage a Formula One design team.”
Katie already has a vast amount of trackside experience under her belt having spent a year leading UWR‘s – professional Formula Three race team, which is run entirely by the students and sponsored by Midlands-based independent law firm FBC Manby Bowdler.
During her first year of study Katie, who was awarded a bursary from FBC Manby Bowdler to help fund her studies, was appointed to the position of tyre technician on the UWR Team. Then, in her second year she was promoted to Team Leader and chief mechanic with overall responsibility for the car’s safety and performance.
“It was an incredible experience,” she said. “At first I sensed some of the other students were a bit touchy about having a female leader. I felt like I had to prove myself pretty quickly. I think as a female you often feel like you have to be better than anyone else to earn your place.
“Fortunately, quite soon after I took on the role, there was an incident at one of the races which allowed me to demonstrate my capabilities and earn the respect of the rest of the team. In my view it doesn’t matter whether you’re male or female if you have the right skills for the job.”
Under Katie’s watch, the UWR team competed in 18 rounds of highly competitive racing during the 2018 F3 race season and secured 3rd place in the MSVR F3 Cup Championships.
“I’m very proud of having the opportunity to lead the team and I’ve learned so much. It’s a pretty big responsibility to have when things go wrong – making sure changes are made, nothing is loose and the car is safe for the driver.”
UWR is racing again under a new leader and a further three female Motorsport Engineers have signed up to join the team, hoping to follow in Katie’s footsteps.
Katie has moved onto new projects as she gets stuck into the Institute of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) Formula Student (FS) competition – Europe’s most established educational engineering competition.
As part of FS, Katie along with other student engineers at the University of Wolverhampton, are busy designing and producing a prototype for a single-seat race car for either autocross or sprint racing. The team will then have to present it to a hypothetical manufacturing firm.
“It’s a huge undertaking and it will be a pretty big challenge balancing this project, lectures and other work but I’m really looking forward to putting a finished car on the ground.
“The challenge will draw on all the practical skills we learned in the racing team but will also give us an opportunity to demonstrate our design and manufacturing skills.”
Katie also hopes the experience will equip her with the professional skills required to earn her a place working for a leading Formula One team.
The youngster’s passion for all things technical and mechanical began in her teens as a student at Wednesfield High Academy – a specialist engineering school.
At GCSE level, she studied construction which involved wood-working, brick laying and other practical skills.
“I soon discovered that I enjoyed working with my hands. I was very practical and wanted to know how things worked,” she said.
Her A Level choice comprised core STEM subjects – engineering, maths and physics.
But ironically, at the start of her degree almost three years ago, she knew nothing at all about the mechanics of a car, let alone the technical nuts and bolts of a racing vehicle.
Neil Lloyd, Sales Director with FBC Manby Bowdler, said it had been an absolute delight to support Katie through her studies.
“Katie has gone from strength to strength over the last couple of years and it has been fascinating to watch her flourish as the Team Leader for the UWR team.
“She has a difficult and challenging year ahead of her but we are certain she will land a graduate position doing a job she is so very passionate about.
“She is certainly helping the Midlands to lead the way for female Motorsport Engineers and we are thrilled to hear another three female students will be following in Katie’s footsteps and taking up a position with the UWR Team next season.”
Terry Gibson, Development Manager for University of Wolverhampton and Sponsorships Manager of UWR, said: “The University has invested heavily in the School of Engineering, with over £10million of new facilities and new equipment at the Telford Innovation Campus.
“Sponsorship and charitable donations play a significant role in our motorsport and engineering programmes, and without the support of companies like FBC Manby Bowdler, it wouldn’t be possible to give our students industry relevant experience like the racing team, or encourage young people from a variety of backgrounds to get involved in engineering.
“We’re looking forward to seeing even more female students at the School of Engineering in the coming years.”
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