Ricardo Engineering Prize Finalists 2024

Emily Sacchi announced as Winner of the Ricardo Engineering Prize 2024

20 Jun 2024

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We are delighted to announce that Emily Sacchi is the winner of the Ricardo Engineering Prize 2024. Emily is a mechanical engineering student at the University of Bath in the UK.

The Ricardo Engineering Prize is awarded to the female engineering student we believe shows the most promise in technical excellence, outstanding communication and the ability to solve complex problems. We recognise that females represent 50% of available expertise, but the number of female engineers currently far from reflects this. At Ricardo, we are committed to changing this, and so every year, we offer a prize to encourage talented female engineering students to pursue a career in engineering and contribute to the future of technology to help improve global society.

Here, Emily shares her future ambitions for her career in engineering and how she has already applied her engineering and design skills to help break a long-standing British record in a prestigious student engineering competition.

Emily, huge congratulations on your win. The University of Bath has a very impressive track record in finding the winners of the Ricardo Engineering Prize. What do you think their secret is?

Emily Sacchi: “Thank you very much! I am honoured to have won this year’s Ricardo Engineering Prize. I didn’t really expect to get the prize to be honest, but when I heard that I had won I was obviously very, very happy! And yes, two wins in two years now for the University of Bath! The university has really good placement officers who are renowned for finding the best opportunities for students with great companies. The placement officers sent out an email to all the women studying engineering in my year saying that the Ricardo Engineering Prize was a great opportunity for us all, and that we simply had to apply by submitting our CV and sharing a recommendation from our tutor. So that’s what I did!”

You had an interesting route into engineering in that you only decided to study the subject when you were applying for university. Tell us more!

Emily Sacchi: “Yes, that’s right: studying engineering was a very late choice for me. I only realised I wanted to do it when I was literally applying for universities! When I was at school I really enjoyed physics, maths, and art, and I thought engineering was the perfect combination of all these subjects. I also really enjoyed design technology (DT) but I never really thought to take it on - I didn’t do DT at A-level. Luckily, maths and physics were all I needed to take engineering at university.”

“There are no engineers in my family. I think that's also why I chose engineering so late: I just didn't understand what engineering was for quite some time. To be honest, even when I was doing my university applications I still didn't really understand what it was. I just knew it sounded fun and it meant that I would be doing the things I loved, so I knew it would be a good choice.”

You’re in your second year studying mechanical engineering at the University of Bath. What attracted you to study engineering there?

Emily Sacchi: “I was mainly drawn to Bath because it has a great reputation for engineering, but also the university has very, very high student satisfaction scores, which was really important to me. It wasn't just the course that was good, but I could tell people had fun there and they really enjoyed their time there. Even when I went to the open day, it was just such a welcoming atmosphere. The campus is quite small, not as big as others I had been to, but it was very welcoming and friendly. Also, my mum loves Bath and wanted an excuse to visit the city, so she was also quite keen for me to go there!”

From your studies so far, what aspects of engineering have you most enjoyed?

Emily Sacchi: “I really enjoyed studying mathematics and fluid dynamics. I studied maths both semesters. This year, we didn’t do pure maths, instead we did maths with coding, which I didn’t like as much because coding is not one of my strong points. I've always really loved maths as it's very logical, and I've done it all my life so it just feels very natural for me.”

“I studied fluid dynamics in the first semester of this year. I really liked it because the lecturer who taught it was very passionate, and you could tell he really loved his subject. He had so many videos in his lectures showing the applications of what we were learning which made it much more interesting. It’s the subject I think I've done best in so far, mostly because I enjoyed it so much. I’m hoping that maybe I can do some fluid dynamics in the future, perhaps for aerospace, but I'm not really sure yet. Perhaps I might even get the chance to do fluid dynamics when I do my placement at Ricardo.”

When you applied for the Engineering Prize, what impressed you about Ricardo?

Emily Sacchi:“I applied for the Engineering Prize mostly because it was just quite easy to apply to. Then I did research on Ricardo and I realised, wow, this company is actually doing exactly what I am really interested in! I am very interested in sustainability, but I was struggling to find a placement with a strong focus on it. Ricardo gave me the opportunity to choose where I wanted to work within the company, which meant I could choose to work within the hydrogen and electrification team for the year in industry placement I won as part of my prize.”

“Other placements in other companies only had very small elements about sustainability, so by comparison, Ricardo’s big focus on sustainability is very impressive. Also, the fact that Ricardo was so passionate about getting women into engineering, I thought was really admirable and I'd not seen any other companies doing this sort of thing.”

All the finalists for the Engineering Prize had to take part in an assessment day at Ricardo. What was your experience of the day?

Emily Sacchi:“I found it quite fun. At first I was very nervous, but once I got there I realised it was lots of other girls in engineering, just like me. The atmosphere was very friendly, especially at the start of the day when we were all waiting for the assessment centre to start. We had a nice chat and got to know each other, which really helped with my nerves! We all had to give a presentation on the day. I saw some really good presentations and I thought, wow, I’m up against some very smart girls! By the end of the day it didn't feel like a competition to me, and I’m glad I got to meet other students with similar experiences to me.

What are you most looking forward to doing on your placement year at Ricardo?

Emily Sacchi:“I chose to study mechanical engineering because I didn’t want to specialise so early on in my engineering journey, and I wanted to keep my options open. I might be interested in aerospace, but I'm not really sure because I haven’t yet had any experience in the sector. For my placement I’ll be working with the electrification and hydrogen fuel cell team in the automotive engineering part of Ricardo’s business. I have heard that this team is working on projects including integrating hydrogen fuel cells into ships and planes which sounds really exciting. Hopefully I'll have a chance to gain experience in other industry sectors like maritime and aerospace as well and see what they are about.”

During their year in industry at Ricardo many of our placement students choose to get involved with science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) activities: going into local schools to help inspire the next generation of engineers. Is this something that appeals to you?

Emily Sacchi:“Definitely yes. I think another reason why I chose engineering so late in life was that I didn’t have a lot of exposure to engineering, or the opportunity to meet and talk with engineers when I was at school. I went to an all-girls secondary school and almost every week there would be assemblies about getting into STEM, because the school knew that it was important to promote STEM careers to girls. The intention was great, but I feel like the school missed the point a bit because they encouraged us to get into STEM but never really showed us what STEM was.”  

“I wish I'd known earlier on what engineering was, because throughout my time at school I didn't understand it very well, so I never considered it. I remember once in a DT lesson my teacher told me I had a knack for design, and said I should consider engineering. I remember thinking it was a silly idea, and that I would never like it, as at the time I thought engineering was only about manufacturing and designing cars. Since taking it at university I have realised how much more there is to engineering, and how it opens up so many doors for my future.”

“When I came to the assessment day for the Engineering Prize, Caroline Mawdsley (the Early Careers Lead at Ricardo) and Helen Burbidge (the lead for Women in Engineering at Ricardo) both mentioned that Ricardo has a very strong STEM programme. They explained that engineers from Ricardo go into schools and help to shine a light on engineering and inspire the next generations. On the assessment day, all the candidates had a really nice chat over lunch with the Ricardo engineers about how we could improve the STEM programme. I strongly suggested more practical and visual STEM presentations with the school children. I believe this would have inspired my younger self to consider engineering earlier on, and I would love to be a part of Ricardo’s STEM programme to help more young people understand what STEM is.”

“Caroline also told us about Ricardo’s Bring Your Daughter to Work Day, and I am definitely interested in getting involved, because I would love to be able to educate some younger girls about what engineering is.” 

The Ricardo Engineering Prize is not your only success in recent times. You’re part of a green racing team, which has just broken a long-standing British record in a prestigious student engineering competition. Tell us more!

Emily Sacchi:“That’s right, yes! I am part of Green Bath Racing, a team focused on developing an ultra-efficient battery electric vehicle. We compete in the annual Shell Eco-Marathon, one of the world’s leading student engineering competitions. This is a global academic programme focused on energy optimisation that seeks to power progress by providing more and cleaner energy solutions for vehicles. Unfortunately, I could not be present at this year’s competition in France because I had end-of-year exams, but the third years students from the team went and competed.” 

“This is the first year that we switched from internal combustion engine to battery electric, and it went amazingly! We ended up becoming the top UK team, beating a UK record from 2013, which was set by the University of Oxford racing team. We achieved eighth place overall out of 25 teams, so we were very pleased with our result! We were quite surprised because it was our first time competing in this category, but we ended up doing really well. We can’t wait to do even better next year, because we know there are a lot of things we can improve already. And, you never know, I might be able to apply some of the things I learn during my placement at Ricardo to help our car achieve better performance and efficiency!”

“I'm actually very excited to learn as much as I can from the Ricardo hydrogen experts, especially because our racing team is thinking of switching to hydrogen at some point. This is a potential plan for the future, so if I could get some experience with the hydrogen team at Ricardo I might even be able to push progress and development of our team’s car!” 

You’ve spoken very highly about the Ricardo Engineering Prize and the benefits of doing your year in industry at Ricardo. What would you say to female engineering students who perhaps haven’t yet decided if they will apply for the 2025 Engineering Prize?

Emily Sacchi:“Honestly, I would say to them: just do it! It was quite straightforward to apply and it was a really fun experience. It was really great to meet girls from other universities in the UK who also got through to the shortlisted stage. Also, I really enjoyed seeing the Ricardo facilities and meeting the engineers who were assessing us for the prize. So even if you don't win the prize, it's just a fun experience and a great opportunity to get more familiar with assessment centres and interviews. You have nothing to lose by applying!”

Responding to and reflecting on Emily’s success in winning this year’s Ricardo Engineering Prize, her personal tutor Dr James Scobie, Reader (Associate Professor) in Mechanical Engineering, University of Bath said: “We in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at The University of Bath are delighted that Emily has been awarded the Ricardo Engineering Prize 2024. Emily brings enthusiasm and commitment to the subject of engineering, as demonstrated by her excellent academic achievements to date. As her personal tutor, I have witnessed her especially excel in group activities, achieving fantastic results whilst working in a team environment.” 

“Emily is not only a high-achiever academically, she is also a Res-life Ambassador (also known as student ambassador) and a Student Peer Mentor where she provides support to first-year students, helping them settle in to their new environment. In this regard, Emily is an asset to the University and a reflection of the high-quality teaching we in the Department pride ourselves in delivering. She is a talented student, who I have no doubt will make an excellent engineer when she finishes her degree.”

Jason Oms O’Donnell, who is the Managing Director, Global Automotive and Industrial, and the Executive Sponsor for Women in Engineering at Ricardo added his congratulations to Emily and explained why the Engineering Prize is so important to Ricardo. He said: “On behalf of everyone at Ricardo I would like to say a huge ‘well done’ to Emily for her brilliant achievement in winning this year’s Ricardo Engineering Prize. She was a very worthy winner in year where the competition was especially tough because all the candidates were so strong. We are really looking forward to welcoming Emily to Ricardo over the summer to start her year in industry placement with us. It’s heartening to hear that she has already researched our company thoroughly and is excited to experience engineering capabilities which could help guide her future career in sustainable mobility.”

“As a company of scientists and engineers, Ricardo has always been proud to champion and encourage the next generation of STEM professionals, particularly female engineers who sadly remain under-represented in the industry. We are encouraged however, that year in, year out, through our Engineering Prize which recognises the most promising female engineering students, we are actively supporting the long-term pipeline of future female engineers and helping very talented young women start their engineering careers with a flourish here at Ricardo.”