- Course: Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering MEng, BEng
Since Theo Youds was really young, he’s been obsessed with space. “I was the kid that you’d find watching Apollo 13 on repeat, reading about the planets, or dressing up as an astronaut.”
Theo admitted he never knew much about engineering but when he was at college, he stumbled across an advert for the Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering MEng, BEng course online and was sold. He said, “For me, choosing the course was a no-brainer.”
I was the kid that you’d find watching Apollo 13 on repeat, reading about the planets, or dressing up as an astronaut.
“I originally chose Leeds mainly based on its rankings for my course, and since then have found that this is a great city to be a student in.” There are six universities across Leeds and a huge and diverse student population to be a part of. He added, “We have great shopping, amazing nightlife, and beautiful countryside right on our doorstep. Pretty much anything you want to do, you can probably do it in Leeds.”
Thinking back to when he started university, Theo said, “I felt quite overwhelmed with everything. I’d taken a year out to travel after college and hadn’t sat in a class or touched a textbook in a while. I soon started to feel like an imposter and like I wasn’t as clever as everyone else; like I didn’t deserve to be here. My natural instinct was to keep myself to myself, but this just made things more difficult.
Coming back to Leeds after Christmas, I made an effort to meet more and more people and soon realised that most of us were feeling the same. People all struggle with different things at university, and this means we can often help each other. Uni isn’t something you should try to do alone.”
Establishing a legacy
With a passion to reach space, Theo founded the Leeds University Rocketry Association in his second year, in March 2021. “I had settled into a good routine with my course and was really enjoying it. I started looking for extra-curricular activities to get involved with, but nothing really grabbed me. There was our Formula Student team for those that were interested in cars, and Robot Fighting League for those more electronically inclined, but I felt there was something missing.”
Theo came across a website for a competition in America where students were building and launching rockets, and this instantly caught his eye. “It wasn’t long before I’d sent off a proposal to some lecturers in the School of Mechanical Engineering for a team to go and compete and they’d agreed to help support the project.
This little idea quickly grew into a team of nearly thirty students. We built and launched two Level 3 rockets in our first year, culminating in a flight of our Gryphon I rocket to over 10,000 ft in New Mexico, USA. Out of the 140+ teams that competed, we came 4th in our category, 8th overall, and we even bagged a 2nd place Innovation award, which we were chuffed about.”
For Theo, “Running Leeds University Rocketry Association is undoubtedly the most significant thing I’ve been involved with at university. My course gave me the background knowledge to be able to do it in the first place, but it’s the things I’ve been able to apply that knowledge to that I think will help most in my career. The project management, team-working, and leadership experience you get from being part of a student project like this is really valuable to employers and is something you won’t get if you focus only on coursework.”
Running Leeds University Rocketry Association is undoubtedly the most significant thing I’ve been involved with at university.
Looking to the future
For the moment Theo hasn’t settled on what he will do after his degree. He’s considering PhD opportunities, but preferably continuing to work on rocketry research, if possible. “There are loads of exciting opportunities with grad jobs at aerospace companies, both in the UK and abroad, and Leeds generally has a good reputation when it comes to graduate employment, so there are loads of opportunities to choose from. Equally, it’s been a busy few years and I have a love for travelling, so maybe I’ll take a time out before getting stuck into a career – who knows.”
Words of wisdom
When thinking of what to say to anyone out there thinking about whether to do Aerospace Engineering at the University of Leeds, Theo says “Do it! But here’s my big piece of advice: university is about a lot more than just attending lectures and doing coursework. Spend some time at the beginning getting to grips with the course, and then start looking for new opportunities beyond that. Find a project or society that excites you, and if nothing does, then make your own. The university will support you with whatever you want to do but it won’t fall into your lap. Get out there and make it for yourself – you’re an engineer after all!”
The university will support you with whatever you want to do but it won’t fall into your lap. Get out there and make it for yourself – you’re an engineer after all!
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