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Dr Daniela Sawyer is an engineer specialising in robotics, who currently works in manufacturing.
How would you characterise your current work?
I currently work as an engineer on the Graduate scheme at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) in Sheffield, UK. My work varies a lot according to my placement: my specialty is in automation, robotics and robotic dynamics studies. If I would have to characterise my work currently, I would probably use the word exciting! Each day is about using problem solving skills to find solutions for the most exciting questions in the manufacturing industry.
How do you feel about maths?
I have to say that I liked maths from a very young age and I did not find it as daunting as other people did. I always enjoyed the fact that generally speaking, maths gives you certainty and your problems have one clear answer. This love for clarity helped me pursue my career in engineering and develop a love for problem solving.
What is it about your work that is mathematical?
As an engineer, everything about my work comes back to mathematics. Dynamics involves finding mathematical models that explain the movement and behaviour of structures. In terms of robotics, each robot is programmed by using paths defined mathematically. My everyday work shows me how mathematics has a big role to play in our everyday life.
How do you use maths, calculation or numeracy in your work? What tools do you use to help you?
I use calculations in each project that I am involved in. From calculating the trajectory of a tool pass to differentiating displacements to find velocity and acceleration information. It goes from basic addition to advanced algebra, depending on the project at hand. In order to so, I employ the use of my own mathematical knowledge and software such as MATLAB that facilitate visualising my results (i.e. plots, graphs, simulations, etc.).
Do you think maths is creative? If so, how?
In research work everything you do has an element of creativity to it. This is how mathematics participates into the creativity processes. Maths can be very creative; there are always new questions to ask for which maths facilitates identifying an answer.
Do you use or rely on any maths that you learnt in school?
Absolutely! The maths that you learn in school puts down the ground work for what you will be using later in life. From how to calculate an area, to how to use the rules of differentiation and integration, all of this I have learnt in school and by having dedicated teachers.
How would you change the school curriculum, if you had the chance? Why?
I would introduce more Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) activities in schools, integrating the work of the many organisations, such as the AMRC, that are dedicated to promoting STEM in schools, starting as early as possible. This helps children understand how these topics are used outside of school and why they are important. There are some topics in the curriculum that can seem dry at times and that is where a STEM activity can be employed to help children get curious and visualise how those concepts might apply in their future.