From one day studying technical drawing at school… to becoming a national champion in Australia’s first all-girl team… to winning an award at the world finals… to a new job at the global consulting design and engineering company, Arup.
In 2004 Charmila Sathianandan was a student at a Cheltanham Girls High School who was studying technical drawing. One day her teacher Paul Wilson announced that the school was entering a new competition called the F1 in Schools Technology Challenge and she was immediately interested,
“I liked the idea of a competition and I had always had a leaning towards a career in engineering or architecture. I didn’t think it was something only for boys.”
“What I liked most about the F1 program was working with CATIA CAD/CAM/CAE software, public speaking and the presentations to people in industry. Since then I have really enjoyed being interviewed for jobs. Inevitably F1 ended up becoming a big topic of conversation in my interviews and from that point of view it has really given me a competitive edge.”
Charmila joined her classmates in a team called Brisk In Pink. They were instantly recognisable with their bright pink team uniforms and pink race car. The team was led by Rochelle Calf who had entered the competition the year before and been selected to represent Australia with a student from Queensland at the first UK F1 in Schools final in London.
“It was so exciting for us. Everything was so new back then”, adds Charmila, “We were the only all-girl team in F1 in Schools. We went to Melbourne for the first national finals and what a shock it was when we won and became the national champions!”
Brisk In Pink boarded a Jumbo 747 with a junior Melbourne team called The Stingers and flew to London for the first world final of the F1 in Schools program. Again, Brisk In Pink was the only all-girl team as they raced against schools from all four corners of the globe. Everyone wanted to meet these friendly girls from Down Under. This was the year Team Australia began its dominance of the F1 program. The Stingers were named world champions and won the Best Engineered Design Award…Charmila and her classmates came 5th outright and received the award for Most Innovative Design.
“My family called me from Sydney, they were yelling at me, my sister was getting calls from her friends saying your sister is on TV! I was blown away by how huge it all was. We were interviewed by the media. It was amazing. Dad was jealous because I got to go to Europe before him.”
On their return home Brisk In Pink were interviewed by the SBS educational program “School Torque” and Charmila says that episode still runs to this day.
“F1 in Schools definitely helped me decide my career path. It made me more employable. F1 in Schools is an engineering related program but it is not normal. It is not what other students do. It is very holistic. It taught me so much outside engineering as well. It made everything interesting and topical.”
Charmila went to the University of Sydney and studied engineering and commerce,
“We used SolidWorks at university and because of my experience with CATIA it was really easy. During my degree I did work with the rail division of John Holland. I loved it but I wanted more of a design role.”
Charmila says the one place that she wanted to work at was Arup, the global consulting design and engineering company. She got an interview with them and…
“They were very impressed with my work in the F1 program. They gave me a job and I’m so excited. I will be an engineer with the infrastructure division of Arup working on big projects like buildings, roads and storm water. There is so much diversity.”