Andrew Cowan - BrightSparks Class of 2017 Award Winner
RS Components partnered with Electronics Weekly on its inaugural EW BrightSparks programme to celebrate the achievements of the UK’s most talented young electronics design engineers and help to inspire and encourage new entrants to the industry.
Andrew has always had a passion for problem-solving, using creative thinking to come up with novel solutions. At school, his interest in electronics, attention to detail, and determination to create elegant and efficient solutions, led to Andrew winning a number of prizes and awards. An Arkwright Scholarship inspired his highly ambitious Systems and Control A-level project – the design and build of a Search and Rescue Robot – which helped Andrew to win the title ‘UK Young Engineer of the Year 2011’.
Andrew realised that choosing electronics as a career path would allow him to apply his skills in the real-world. He studied Electronic Engineering at Southampton University, specialising in communications. When Andrew graduated in 2014, he was awarded the GD Simms Prize for achieving the highest overall academic performance throughout the entire degree course.
As a student, Andrew was grateful to receive a lot of guidance and direction which helped him to understand what a career in engineering could offer. This was both from industry (work placements and contacts), and from organisations such as the British Science Association and Engineering UK. Now Andrew volunteers as a STEM Ambassador, conveying the excitement of engineering to young people. This includes speaking at events, teaching workshops, and writing features in journals and online.
Andrew says that one of his highlights every year is volunteering at STEM events to support bright students and help guide them towards rewarding careers – for 2017 this includes the Tomorrow’s Engineers Robotics Challenge and the Big Bang Fair’s Science and Engineering Competition (which Andrew actually won as a student), as well as helping to interview and select students for engineering prizes and Arkwright Scholarships.
An Advanced Engineering Leadership Award from the Royal Academy of Engineering helped Andrew to develop his management skills too, giving him the experience of managing projects and coordinating teams of other engineers.
It's great to hear how supportive Andrew’s schools and university have been in terms of advising him about a career in engineering. It is clear that Andrew has an incredible aptitude for engineering which he has demonstrated throughout his education and in his work. I was particularly enthused by Andrew’s work with his employer to encourage young engineers into the business through establishing a summer industry placement scheme.”
Lindsley Ruth, CEO, Electrocomponents PLC
Getting into industry
Now Andrew works for Cobham Antenna Systems as a Signal Processing Engineer. Working as part of a team with a huge amount of experience provides a brilliant environment for learning, and since joining the company Andrew has progressed quickly. In his own words: “While University provides a solid starting point of the fundamentals, it’s working in industry that gives engineers their most valuable experience and knowledge.”
One of Andrew’s key aims at Cobham is to help get more students and young engineers into the company. As a young engineer himself, Andrew is aware of the importance of transferring knowledge through generations working alongside each other: “as a lot of it can’t formally be taught, and there’s a danger of knowledge being lost as people retire.” As such, Andrew has launched summer placements at Cobham Antenna Systems, working closely with universities to help select students best placed for these.