Lorna Bennet - Mechanical Engineer - Offshore Renewable Energy

Issued: Fri, 25 Sep 2020 17:14:00 BST

Tell us a fun fact about yourself

As a child I loved building things and helping my dad with the DIY around the house. I loved being outdoors, climbing trees, making dens, building sandcastles and I always wanted to help. I was very creative and my favourite thing at school was arts and crafts. I had a great imagination and becoming an engineer has given me the skills to make my ideas into real things!

Tell us about your career journey so far

I graduated in 2011 with a BEng in Product Design Engineering from the University of Glasgow and Glasgow School of Art. My first job was as a Mechanical Design Engineer, designing machines for offshore systems. I was then offered a job with the company who were leading the world in wave energy development. Unfortunately, the wave power industry was not supported politically, and it collapsed at the end of 2014 and I had to find another job.

In 2015 I found myself as a Development Engineer working for a company in aerospace, investigating possible improvements to airplane jet engines.

In 2016 I returned to the renewable energy research and development with ORE Catapult and I have spent the last 4 years helping companies, researchers and organizations to improve all areas of offshore renewable energy, by testing new sensor systems to improve condition monitoring to supporting the development of new robotics inspection systems to reduce health and safety risks when working offshore.

I also recently completed a Master's degree in Marine Technology through Newcastle university which I completed through a distance learning program, the Marine Technology Education Consortium.  

What was your favourite subject in school and why?

My favourite subjects at school were Art and Design as I was very creative. I liked to make things and solve problems in imaginative ways. Also, Physics and Chemistry because I love experiments; finding out how things work and why they work the way they do.

What subjects/qualifications are useful for your role?

STEM subjects are very helpful. However, Art and Design, Technical subjects, Graphic Communications, Computing and Programming and any other creative subjects can all be incredibly helpful. Engineering and the renewable energy industry are very international, so foreign languages can also be useful if that is what you are interested in.

What is a normal day in your role like?

A typical day in the office always starts with a cup of tea while I check and answer emails and review my to do list. I usually have a few requests for discussions about projects or for some information about our offshore demonstration wind turbine, so I will arrange calls or meetings to answer project questions or compile the requested technical information about the wind turbine. Then I will have a series of emails, calls and discussions about current projects or helping colleagues with information for project proposals, funding bids or new potential project partners.

Depending on the projects I am working on I might have to do some design work for a test rig or a new piece of equipment. this could involved innovation sessions to pool ideas and suggestions for solutions; 3D design modelling on the computer with CAD software; design calculations in excel spreadsheets, MathCad or MATLAB and possibly even analysis and simulations to check for structural loads and design reliability.

On more exciting days I get to visit our Levenmouth offshore demonstration wind turbine to meet visitors, clients or project partners. This usually starts early to get there and make sure we have all the necessary PPE ready for the visitors. When everyone has arrived and has their safety equipment on we have a brief health and safety discussion about what it is safe to do and what shouldn't be done on site. Then we go over to the wind turbine which we can access from the shore via a foot bridge. I love to see the awe on everyone's face as it is always much bigger and more impressive than they are expecting! We would then discuss all their questions about the turbine and what challenges we have to overcome to complete any installations or technology demonstrations.

What is your favourite thing about your job?

The thing I love most about my job is the variety. Every project is incredibly different and I get to meet so many interesting people, while working towards a green energy future.

Can you suggest an activity that could be done at home that illustrates an aspect of your work? 

Practical Action's Wind Power Challenge: https://practicalaction.org/knowledge-centre/resources/wind-power-challenge-home-learning-guide/

If you're a STEM Ambassador in Scotland and want to share your story you can download the form here.