18 November 2022
Woldingham’s 180th anniversary lecture series continued in November with impressive and inspiring talks from Sophie Harker, Assistant Chief Engineer of Electric Products at BAE Systems, and Caroline Nokes MP, Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee.
Fittingly, Sophie’s talk to students and staff, as well as guests from Tonbridge School, was on National Engineering Day, Wednesday 2 November. Sophie’s view of engineering as a creative, problem-solving career, where you can leave behind a legacy, came through loud and clear as she talked about a host of fascinating topics including: the challenges of designing hypersonic aircraft (travelling at 5x the speed of sound or faster); the technology behind SABRE, the world-leading Synergetic Air Breathing Rocket Engine; and her ambition/“wild dream” – and everything she is doing to achieve it – to become an astronaut. During her talk, Sophie explained that her whole life changed because of a visit to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where she met Helen Sharman, the first British person in space, who asked Sophie if she had thought of going into engineering. It may well be that Sophie’s fantastic talk, which you can see here, had a similar impact on students in her audience at Woldingham.
The questions kept coming from students to Caroline Nokes MP after her entertaining and honest talk on Thursday 17 November. As one of the first Conservative MPs to call on Boris Johnson to resign, Caroline said it is essential that politicians have integrity and tell the truth. She said Theresa May was incredibly hard working and diligent as prime minister and that she particularly enjoyed working with Ken Clarke, even if she was not convinced he could ever remember her name! With Matt Hancock taking part in I’m a Celebrity, she revealed that she isn’t as good as him on ‘pivoting’ during interviews as she still tries to answer the question rather than swerve it.
The wide ranging and thoughtful questions from students covered equality, whether she would ever become prime minister (her answer was 'no') and climate change.
Mrs Nokes was incredibly generous with her time staying behind to answer many more questions from students.
Thank you to Mrs Payne for organising the talk and to Lower Sixth students Georgie and Liv (pictured below with Caroline and Mrs Payne) for introducing Caroline Nokes to the in-person and online audience.