Women Engineers

Award Winning Design Engineer Creates Alternatives For The Disabled

Written by Elena Doncheva | Women Engineers | Thursday 10th July 2014 15:14:00 GMT

Design engineer Cara O'Sullivan innovates bespoke equipment for young disabled people in Peru.

Cara at the MERU workshop

Cara at the MERU workshop

Engineering may not seem like the most creative job, but Cara O'Sullivan, an award winning design engineer, dispels that theory. Working for the specialized charity MERU helped her realize the endless possibilities the industry has, and gave her a chance to change people's lives.

Designing individual equipment for children and young people with disabilities, when there are no other alternatives, definitely makes you think outside the box.

“Working in a medically-orientated environment has forged the importance of human factors into my design ethos,” Cara explains.

“Most of the children who require a bespoke piece of equipment will know why they need it or know what they want to achieve, so it is my job to collaborate with them [as] their occupational therapist and their carer to create a product which enables them to achieve their goal,” she adds.

“Like any engineering role, it requires creative thinking and knowledge about manufacturing, but the first step is to fully understand the child’s need,” clarifies Cara.

Her humanitarian work extends to the STEMNET organization, which creates opportunities for youngsters who want to be involved in science, technology, engineering and mathematics – STEM subjects.

Cara is eager to motivate the young generation to enter this challenging academic road, and she actively participates in the Brunel Women in STEM and Design Society.

“Nurturing a child’s interest for a particular subject is the most important part of inspiring the younger generation; it’s never too early to set career goals – and the more creative you can be about it, the better,” Cara says.

She adds: “Schools very rarely offer comprehensive careers advice, but I feel it is important to get children thinking early on about careers rather than ‘jobs’. Giving talks at schools and helping to arrange work experience for students are great ways to pass on knowledge and reveal the diversity of careers in STEM.”

Cara has found that the best methods to encourage youngsters are “discussing how their interests link to careers in STEM, and informing them about what opportunities are available to help [them] reach their goals”.

She continues improving the lives of others though various projects, the latest of which is Kiya Survivors, which offers support to young people with disabilities and families living in severe poverty in Peru.

“I am currently working on a project to deliver a range of equipment to a school in Peru to help educate children with disabilities. The perception of disabilities out there is quite different to our culture,” Cara explains.

“Improving lives is my way of measuring success. I love being able to use my creativity and imagination in my work to make a positive difference in the world,” adds the young engineer.

“Hard work is something I am renowned for; I will learn whatever I need to, to make something work – and I encourage others to do the same.”


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