Rebekkah Astbury is a second year Mechanical Engineering student and a massive Formula 1 and motorsport fan. Her love of engineering and determination has seen her excel academically and now mix with motorsport’s elite.

This International Women in Engineering Day (INWED), as we celebrate our pioneering inventors and innovators, Rebekkah has been selected as one of the lucky few to join the Red Bull racing team at their factory in Milton Keynes for a unique experience to gain an insight into what it’s like to be part of a world class engineering team and see behind the scenes of the extremely secretive world of F1.

“I’ve always watched F1 while growing up and I’m so excited. It's an honour to be chosen from so many applicants and it's an amazing opportunity to be around the Red Bull team for the day. I couldn't actually believe I'd been chosen! In my future career I'd love to work for a team like Red Bull and have looked at them as well as Mercedes and McLaren."

Rebekkah Astbury, Mechanical Engineering Student

Rebekkah initially studied at a sixth form college after her GCSEs, but didn’t think it was right for her so transferred to a local college to study Motorsport Level 2 and 3. A lucky encounter at a careers fair meant that after college, Rebekkah could continue to evolve as an engineer. She said: “I didn’t know what I wanted to do after college, but I spoke to Canterbury Christ Church University at a careers fair about the courses on offer and discovered I was able to start studying Engineering at the University on a Foundation Year. I had experience from college, but I didn’t have the UCAS points to go straight into the degree. That’s how I got to where I am now.”

The theme of this year’s INWED is ‘Inventors and Innovators’, and it’s fair to say that Rebekkah has big plans to become a future inventor and innovator.

“I like the idea of designing products through engineering, but I’d love to work in Formula 1 as a design engineer. In that sport, new regulations come in every year which teams must adapt to, so I’d love to design something which helps performance. It must be cool to design something and then see it on the car, working in real life. That’s the main thing I want to do – see something I’ve designed working on the car.”

“I like the freedom of being a design engineer. We had a module this year (2nd year) that was all about 3D CAD (computer aided design) which I enjoyed the most. It’s the design modules that stand out most within the Mechanical Engineering course for me. We’ve done a few real-world projects such as with Barton Marine designing cleats which involved a full design and testing process, as well as 3D modelling a new factory to help a graphics company move locations with its various machinery.”

Recently, she published a paper that she had created as a side-project around the effects of ‘porpoising’ on 2022 season F1 cars (effectively where F1 cars bottom out on bumpy circuits) and how teams are dealing with it. This gained big traction on LinkedIn and helped her secure her INWED experience at Red Bull Racing after beating many other engineering students in the application process.

“I’m also going to volunteer again for Girls on Track – Suzie Wolff’s initiative run in conjunction with the FIA which inspires young girls to get into motorsport – being a chaperone at the London Formula e event. I’ll be taking people around the paddock, looking at the teams and doing activities.

“When it comes to female engineering heroes, I’d definitely say Suzie Wolff is mine. She’s done so much, starting off as a racing driver in an all-male field and then setting up organisations to help others. She’s very inspirational with what she’s done and what she continues to do.”

Rebekkah volunteering at Girls on Track
Rebekkah volunteering at Girls on Track

INWED seeks to break down the barriers that women still face when getting into engineering. Rebekkah, however, has had a good experience in her studies demonstrating that, perhaps, attitudes are changing.

“When I say to people that I’m studying Mechanical Engineering, they often don’t know what it is. Some people instinctively say ‘you want to be a mechanic’ so I have to explain the difference between that and being an engineer. In college there were only two girls in the class – me and one other – but there were no bad experiences. We were treated the same and did really well. There are still more males than females in my university classes, but again there’s no difference in the way we’re treated.

“I did have a careers interview before I left sixth form. I was doing A levels in Art, business and 3D design and I said to the careers advisor that I wanted to do engineering. He suggested that I should look towards degrees in the arts, even though I was adamant that I was going to go to college and do motorsport. From a careers person, that was a bit off-putting but it didn’t affect me as I was determined to do it!”

Rebekkah has a simple message to other women, regardless of age, who want to get into engineering: “Stick to it. You might come across hurdles but once you think of what you want to achieve, you can overcome them. The goals you want to achieve and the standards you set yourself will help you get over any hurdles. You can do anything that you want to do. Nowadays the stigma of being a female in engineering is much better than it was, say 10 years ago. You get treated much more fairly.

“Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, or talk you out of what you want to do.”

Watch Rebekka's top five tips for becoming an engineer over on TikTok.