Yewande Akinola is an environmental service engineer. She was crowned the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) Young Woman Engineer of the Year in 2012 after impressing the judges with her work on water and sanitation in developing countries. As the winner of the Prize, she was also made an ambassador for the IET and the engineering profession at large for the year 2013.
Early Life and Education
Akinola was born in 1985 in Nigeria. As a child, she used to design model-sized dream homes. This pastime eventually led her to a career in engineering. Akinola has a Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree in Engineering Design and Appropriate Technology from the University of Warwick, United Kingdom and a Master’s degree in Innovation and Design from Cranfield University, also in the UK.
Career and Awards
Akinola works for Arup, a global firm of consulting engineers, on environmental design systems for big build public projects such as schools and council offices. Her interests are in water engineering, transport and energy. Her childhood in Nigeria, a developing country, highlighted for her the challenges faced in the area of energy infrastructure in particular. Instead of simply designing comfortable houses, she was inspired to look into designing roads and energy systems that would enhance standards of living.
Throughout her university years, Akinola garnered awards for mathematics and science. Freshly out of college, she was one of three employees at Arup to win the UK’s Society of Public Health Engineers Award for Young Rising Stars by designing an energy-efficient rain-harvesting system. Arup has since put the system up for patenting and is pursuing as a commercially-viable project. Akinola has been recognised for her commitment to sustainability and innovation, especially around water supply technology.
Akinola is also interested in water and sanitation for underdeveloped and developing countries, and has spent time in Ghana looking into developing mechanised systems for delivering services related to these issues. She also recently travelled to Mozambique to work with Water Aid.
As the 2012 Young Woman Engineer of the Year, Akinola was awarded a cash prize of £2,500 for her outstanding ability to make engineering relevant to a broader audience. Akinola believes that the beauty of engineering lies in how its basic principles span across different areas such as communications and structures, referring to her work as “social engineering” because of the variety of people she has been able to work with.
On April 26, 2013 she taught a lesson at Highgate Wood Secondary School, London, in collaboration with TeachFirst during which she showed students the exciting life of an engineer through pictures and video. She also engaged the students in a discussion on renewable products and systems for buildings, and how these could be incorporated into old and modern buildings. Akinola believes that it is important for students to interact with designers and engineers in order to encourage them to pursue careers in these fields.
Akinola was also on the judging panel for the 2012 Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering. She was the presenter of Titanic: the Mission (Rebuilding Titanic) on Channel 4 and National Geographic and has also appeared on a number of TV shows on engineering on the Discovery Channel.
Akinola led events at the Royal Academy of Engineering’s stand at the 2012 Big Bang Fair. She is currently part of the Talent2030 campaign alongside other high-profile scientists and engineers. Akinola also maintains a blog about her life as an engineer.
Watch Akinola talking about her career