Drew Milgate: Dart Scholar Update

Drew Milgate, a 2013 Dart High School Scholar and a 2017 William A. Dart Memorial University Scholarship recipient has started his third year at the University of Cambridge where he is studying Engineering.  In addition to his coursework, Drew is part of the Cambridge University Eco Racing team where he is working with other students to design, build and race a solar powered automobile named Helia at the World Solar Challenge in Australia this October. Read on to learn more about Drew and his experience as a Dart Scholar and on the Cambridge University Eco Racing team.

What led you to apply for the William A. Dart Memorial University Scholarship?

The focus on STEM and thinking what else Dart could offer in science is what inspired me to apply. When you live on an island, there aren’t any science parks or cool museums to explore so I thought Dart would be able to offer access to more STEM related activities through their Minds Inspired initiatives and the wide range of STEM professionals within Dart.

How has being a Dart Scholar supported your studies and your career path?

The mentorship element that is included with the scholarship has been really beneficial for me. I’ve worked in Dart’s Minds Inspired summer Work-X programme where I’ve been able to have direct conversations with people in various careers at Dart and ask them questions such as “What was your career path, what did you study, how did you end up where you are?” Over the summer of 2018, I worked with the team in Dart Labs which helped guide which courses I chose for my third year.

Tell us about your experience with Dart Container Corporation.

As a Dart Scholar recipient, I was invited to the Dart Container Corporation in Mason, Michigan to spend a week with their team of mechanical engineers and operational specialists. This helped solidify my choice to pursue engineering at Cambridge.

The trip helped to develop and broaden my view of engineering; and while I previously had a general understanding of engineering as a subject, visiting Dart Container showed me engineering in practice and what different careers are available using engineering. There were people who spent all their time on computers and other people were responsible for building custom parts for the machines and it was interesting to learn about each role. I think of engineering and science as all these branches of knowledge and there is no way you can figure out everything, but all these people are right at the tips of the branches and perfectly specialised at what they do. It was a quick week, but it was helpful reassurance that engineering is what I wanted to study. All of these people were doing different things which showed me that I will have endless opportunities when I’m done with school.

Tell us about your involvement with the Cambridge Eco Racing team.

I am a member of Cambridge University Eco Racing where we design and build a solar powered car to compete in the World Solar Challenge in Australia. Our car is a mix of leading industry technologies and student innovations, a look at what electric vehicles could be.

The entire team is made of students. We don’t have any professors working on the car, it’s all done by us. We design every part of the car, if we want wheels on the car, someone designs the profile; if we want a seat, we design the chassis to fit the seat and so on; everything we can’t buy we have to build. 

There are a series of challenges in which you can compete that take place around the world. The premier challenge, and the one we compete in, takes place in Australia. The challenge happens every two years, the last race was 2017 which is right when I started university, so I’ve been involved in the entire process for the upcoming competition this October. Our team will spend the next few weeks finishing the car, then it will get packed up and shipped to Australia. Members of the team will travel there later in September to run tests and fine tune the car before the six day race on 13 October.

Being a part of the team has been a really rewarding experience. It put a lot of pressure on my degree, but I leave each work session feeling productive and it’s great to see all of the physical parts come together. Plus, there is so much we do that’s not part of our curriculum so to have this additional experience is really valuable. For example, this year I was tasked with building seats for the car. Half of my time was spent working on the design and the other half was spent communicating with manufactures and working out the details to produce the seats, which is really unique job experience to gain while I’m still in university.

What led you to Cambridge and how has your experience been so far?

I chose my degree when I was doing my A levels at Brighton College. I had excellent teachers during my A levels and they helped me see that I was good at the sciences and that I enjoyed them. I’d had my mind on physics and engineering, but then we went to an open day at Oxford at the end of my first year and I was able to see an engineering department and a physics department. I was able to learn what each course actually entails, and I liked what I saw in the engineering department.

What’s on the horizon for your last two years at Cambridge?

I’m going in to my third year, I have four years in total, but when I’m done I will have a masters. It’s a streamlined programme that comes with a masters rather than separate programs. For course work, I’m doing electrical and electronics and a bit of maths. For the first two years, the course was general engineering where I studied everything. The second year of engineering at Cambridge is supposed to be one of the busiest years of any engineering degree so I’m happy that’s done. That course work combined with Eco Racing was the most pressure I’ve felt. I finished 11th overall in my year which was an improvement from last year, so I was quite happy with that.

Do you have any advice for other students that are looking to study STEM subjects?

The older you get, the more you realize it can be hard to pick what area within STEM you want to focus on. Find a way to talk to people in STEM related careers or talk to your teachers to find out what they think is best for you. They have outside experience or have seen students excel in various subjects and can help you decide which way to go.