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International Women in Engineering Day: Our engineering heroes in New Zealand

June 16, 2021

Female Kiwi engineers talk about their hero projects

International Women in Engineering Day is held annually on 23 June, and this year's theme is Engineering Heroes. To help celebrate, we asked some of our engineers to talk about how their projects are heroes in the community. 

We're profiling women who recognise a problem and dare to be part of the solution, making huge impacts in our daily lives by providing essential public services and infrastructure. They help make our drinking water safe and our commute times bearable.  

While they believe it's the project outcomes that support a community, it’s also the people that deliver those projects that make a difference. Here are a couple of the real heroes: Ashleigh and Vanessa.

Ashleigh Dick, Graduate Environmental Engineer

Ashleigh recently completed her first culvert design which she described as “fun”; her stormwater design was for a bridge replacement in the Central Hawke's Bay, and she made sure the runoff from a significant upstream catchment didn't compromise the long-term stability of the bridge—as well as ensuring the water could drain into the river without causing riverbed erosion. Ease of maintenance, overall constructability, and operations were also considered in her design.

Part of a logging route, the bridge is a crucial piece of infrastructure for forestry operations—a key industry for the Hawke's Bay. Despite being small, the bridge and stormwater catchment have a big impact on the people who live in the area—it would create significant disruption if the bridge was inaccessible or if inadequate planning and construction suddenly increased flooding and water pollution across residents' farmland.

“My design centred around safety and the environment. I ensured that the hydraulic design didn’t result in excess disruption to the stream bed or disturb the ecological system,” said Ashleigh. “Plus, the solution was cost effective, using the local landform and local features to encourage natural drainage, along with flexible design to fit into the existing landscape to mitigate risks.”

Vanessa Wong, Transportation Planner

The now-operational Paremata Roundabout Metering Project in Wellington gave Vanessa her first experience modelling and testing a roundabout meter from inception, concept, and design to implementation and completion. It also helped her realise her ability to overcome challenges, make an impact, and solve transportation issues.

Before the metered traffic light was installed the community was suffering from congestion and inefficiency. Vanessa and her team's solution was quick and low-cost, reducing journey times (by 4–5 minutes) and providing a safer experience for drivers. The overall impact means balanced traffic flows, reduced delays, a more efficient transport route, a safer and cleaner environment, and happier drivers.

“I felt proud of my team and how we collaborated remotely,” said Vanessa, who was a junior engineer while on this project. “There were exciting challenges that I'd never experienced. It was the first time I thought, wow, I’m an engineer!” 

To find out more about how women in engineering are active around the globe, visit the International Women in Engineering Day website.

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