On this International Women in Engineering Day, General Dynamics UK is proud to announce that two of our colleagues – Kirsten McCormick and Kirstin Rouse – have been named as finalists for the annual Top 50 Women in Engineering, by the Women’s Engineering Society.
This year’s ranking celebrates inventors and innovators who can “Imagine the Future.”
Congratulations to Kirsten and Kirstin for this impressive recognition. Their stories are below, covering their roles as innovators and advocates for women in engineering.
Creating “the” air mission system architecture of the future
Kirstin Rouse, Principal Systems Engineer
Since joining General Dynamics in 2013, Kirstin’s greatest accomplishment has been her role as lead engineer on the CESTIUS project – a strategic concept validation project focused on the UK Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) high-profile PYRAMID reference architecture, which is intended to be “the” mission system architecture for future air systems.
“The MoD’s hope is that this next-generation architecture will enable them to develop air mission systems more efficiently, delivering operational advantages through life, as the core of the UK’s air capability,” says Kirstin.
Under her direction, Kirstin’s team developed a report of recommendations – many of which were integrated into the evolving architecture process. Kirstin was also the lead presenter on those recommendations – speaking to the PYRAMID Industry Advisory Group (a forum comprised of senior MoD and engineering representatives), and to the UK/US Collaborative Open Systems Architecture (COSA) group.
In addition, Kirstin served as the technical lead in co-developing a business case to expand the Company’s artificial intelligence / machine learning (AI/ML) capability at the Hastings facility – working in tandem with fellow engineer in the Top 100, Kirsten McCormick.
Advancing game-changing AI/ML technology for the defence industry
Kirsten McCormick, Systems Engineer
Kirsten joined the General Dynamics UK graduate programme in 2019 as a Systems Engineer after completing her Integrated Masters in Physics. Since completing the graduate development programme, Kirsten has since embarked on a transformative journey to understand how to best use Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML) within the defence industry, specifically the avionics sector.
Largely through her own initiative, Kirsten developed a prototype AI-based weapon management aid, having previously applied AI/ML in the area of mission system adaptive reconfiguration. This future-facing software concept involved a means of minimising the risk to pilots in battle, by using multiple weaponised unmanned air vehicles to support traditional manned platforms.
As part of her research, Kirsten also developed an artificial neural network and random forest algorithm, conducted data generation during the training and testing of both systems, and increased their complexity from sprint to sprint, always ensuring a minimum viable product at the end of each sprint.
While the project is still in the fundamental research phase, it could ultimately culminate in game-changing technology for General Dynamics. In essence, by seizing this challenge under her own volition, Kirsten has positioned General Dynamics to embrace AI and ML in the future.
Kirsten has presented her work at a number of conferences, including speaking about the ethics and special considerations around “responsible AI” within the defence industry.
Advocating for women and girls in STEM
In addition to advancing technology for the defence industry, both Kirsten and Kirstin have made significant contributions to educating and promoting STEM to women and girls.
Not long after joining General Dynamics 10 years ago, Kirstin Rouse saw a need for a STEM Ambassador outreach programme. Kirstin put together a business case, and received executive support as well as a budget to create and spearhead the outreach programme. With the programme fully mature, Kirstin’s focus today is more on one-on-one and small-group mentorship, acting as a regular advocate for other women in her field by advising on new skills and personal development.
Outside of work, Kirstin is also a member of the Engineering Industrial Advisory Panel at the University of Kent, advising on the content of degree programmes to ensure they meet industry needs. Participating in “I’m An Engineer; Get Me Out of Here,” she engaged with students online, answering their questions about working in STEM. Kirstin has also appeared as a keynote speaker on various occasions for student engineering-related events.
Meanwhile, Kirsten McCormick is a frequent speaker to young people as part of the STEM Ambassador programme, encouraging students – especially girls – to consider following in her footsteps.
“When I was younger and wanted to study physics, my tutors would laugh at me because I was female, so I’m keen to help school children get over the belief that engineering is only for men,” says Kirsten. “When they see women like me presenting about engineering, it becomes ingrained in their minds that there’s just not that bias anymore.”