Edinburgh Leonardo engineer praises neurodiverse brother's 'incredible engineering brain’ in award speech

An engineer working for aerospace engineering firm Leonardo has thanked her deaf and neurodiverse brother for teaching her what it means to be an engineer as she receives a national award.

By Shona Elliott
Friday, 3rd December 2021, 12:30 pm

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Edinbrugh Leonardo employee Sarah Cooper has won the ‘STEM in Defence’ award at the prestigious Women in Defence Awards at the Guildhall in London.

The 26-year-old, who works as a senior hardware engineer for Leonardo was honoured for her hard work encouraging young people to get involved in science.

Sarah Cooper, 26, has won a national award.

Ms Cooper, who was selected amongst some of the UK’s top engineers for the award said science has always seemed like the right path for her due to her technical mindset and family background - Ms Cooper’s father David and brother Martin both worked in engineering, and her sister Elaine is a mathematician.

While a scientific brain clearly runs in the family, Ms Cooper said it was her eldest brother Andy who helped her understand what it really means to be an engineer.

She said: “My eldest brother Andy is deaf and neurodiverse and he has an incredible engineering brain. He is able to look at anything - a structure, a bridge, a machine - and visualise how it works and the internal mechanisms that support it.

“From the youngest age, I used to watch him building complex models of his own using K’Nex and I would watch in awe as he was so focused on getting it right.

Four-yea-old Sarah Cooper at home in Glasgow.

“Reflecting on Andy’s resilience and persistence, I wanted to help young people see that it doesn’t matter if they make mistakes or don’t get things right first time.

“Engineering is about experimenting, never giving up and being creative. You just keep going and over time your confidence grows, as you realise it is a process that never ends; you never stop learning.”

Since joining Leonardo, Ms Cooper has been involved in a huge array of initiatives, both internally and outside of work.

During lockdown, Ms Cooper and colleague Amy Edwards began showcasing the engineering profession to young people on Tik Tok.

Sarah Cooper (left) with fellow finalists in London.

Leonardo’s Jon Norris, who nominated Ms Cooper for the award, said: “Sarah is such a dynamic engineer and everyone around her is influenced by that enthusiasm. We are tremendously proud of her award, which is very well deserved.”

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