For an engineer, Caroline Baillie spends a lot of time in theatres and art galleries.
Winthrop Professor Baillie has a Chair in Engineering Education and has successfully used art and drama to help engineering students with the creative side of their work, to attract young people into the profession and to raise awareness of how art is made possible through engineering.
She runs a theatre company, co-based in the UK and Canada, which stages productions focusing on engineering, recycling and creative approaches to problem-solving.
Professor Baillie is one of eight winners of Diversity Initiative Funding (DIF), awarded at UWA every year to promote equity and diversity.
She is organising a photographic competition, Engineering for People, open to all schoolchildren, university students and the general public, but targeting high school girls in Perth, to raise awareness of engineering as a career for female students.
The $2800 funding will go towards running the competition, an exhibition of the best work and the publication of a brochure with the same goal. Professor Baillie hopes the competition will focus attention on engineering as a career which can involve people in a participatory way, contribute to the development of basic human needs and service diverse communities.
"One of the main reasons girls do not take engineering is that they do not perceive it to be people-oriented," Professor Baillie said. A theatre-in-education program run by her company, Critical Stage Company, on Australia's first female electrical engineer, Florence Violet Mackenzie, demonstrated that many school girls were very keen to make the world a better place.
"But they don't usually associate this incentive with engineering as a career. I hope this project will highlight the importance of engineering in society and the place and role that engineers can play in people's lives."
She said the numbers of young women studying engineering were low all over the world, even reducing over the past few years. "We need to take action to address this at UWA," she said.
Professor Baillie has done a lot of similar work in Europe and Canada, including a comparable photographic competition she ran at Queens University.
"I have run workshops on Materials in Art (at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Tate in Liverpool, for example), looking at how the art was made possible through function, form and processing of materials such as glass, metal and plastics.
Professor Baillie came to UWA from Queens University, Ontario in the middle of last year.
"It is really critical for engineers to be able to think visually," she said.
The Engineering for People project will be launched next month.