Rachel, a mechanical engineer, started working at Underfall Yard Trust this year as our Workshop Manager.   Last year she began volunteering at Clifton Suspension Bridge and her experience there led to a career change, which brought her to the yard.  And it is for that volunteering that she has won the South West category of the prestigious ‘Volunteers for Museum Learning’ award. For the seventh year The British Museum and the Marsh Christian Trust have been working in partnership on the award which recognises the hugely valuable contribution that volunteers make in helping museums engage with their visitors.

Joanna Mackle, Deputy Director of the British Museum said “Museums could not reach and inspire the large number of people that they do each year without the commitment and enthusiasm of volunteers. The Marsh Awards recognise the invaluable contribution of volunteers in museums across the country and we are very grateful to the Marsh Christian Trust for acknowledging this work.”

Rachel was nominated for her work in for designing and delivering a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) resource pack for secondary pupils which focussed on the physics of bridges, giving purpose and meaning to maths and physics by applying them to real life situations encountered in daily life. She also led sessions with secondary students, many of whom lacked confidence in their abilities to complete maths and physics activities yet after the session showed real pride in their achievements.

“Through the Clifton Suspension Bridge, I have discovered a huge community of volunteers who do amazing things across Bristol” says Rachel. “I am gladdened to see that so many people are giving their time to help others and make Bristol such a vibrant, exciting city. I love the Bridge: its history, its representation of the greatest age of engineering development and its focus for life in Bristol over the years.”

Rachel still volunteers at Clifton Suspension Bridge and is passionate about making engineering visible to younger people and showing everyone how rewarding the profession can be. “There is a large gap between the need for engineers in this country and the number of young people being trained in the subject. Making feats of industrial heritage, like the bridge and the Underfall pumps, visible, accessible, and ‘hands-on’ is a great way of inspiring people to future innovations and further progress”.

Laura Hilton, Visitor Services Manager, Clifton Suspension Bridge Trust says “Rachel’s enthusiasm for the project was infectious and it was a real pleasure to see young people discovering confidence in subjects they had previously found rather challenging. The resources she has created will benefit groups for years to come and it is wonderful to see her dedication recognised and rewarded.”

Rachel will next be demonstrating the pumps over Docks Heritage Weekend 1-2 October, 11am-5pm. The pumps will be run by Underfall Yard volunteers that Rachel has trained – passing on the excellence in engineering education she demonstrated to achieve her award.