Student's rocky road to success



A Heriot-Watt student has scooped a top engineering prize for delivering baking demonstrations to primary school children to illustrate how concrete is formed.

Catriona Salvini (21) is cooking up a storm in schools across Edinburgh and the Lothians – with her unique cooking classes on how concrete is made. 

The fifth year structural engineering student has been baking her family's secret rocky road recipe to show pupils how the baking process is the same to making concrete.

Catriona from Bathgate in West Lothian, hopes that her love of baking could help people understand the complicated world of civil engineering and has just won third prize in the Institution of Civil Engineers Pitch 200 competition for her efforts. 

And not content with helping young people understand engineering - the student has also set her sights on a slot on Bake Off as fellow students rush to taste her delicious bakes.

Catriona said: “My earliest memory is being sat on the kitchen counter – wooden spoon in hand, caked in melted chocolate and biscuit crumbs, my mum making rocky road and me helping.

“But now I'm a civil engineer, not all that much has changed: I make concrete instead of cake but create the same amount of mess.

“Concrete, like rocky road, is a composite material – or in other words, its made up of little bits of other materials. The binder is a powder called cement which is mixed with water. Whereas in rocky road its melted chocolate – cocoa and milk powders and melted cocoa butter.

“A lot of concrete is little stones – engineers call these coarse aggregates. They give the concrete strength and toughness similar to quarried rock. In baking terms these are the marshmallows and glace cherries.

“I used baking analogies because they would be easily understood and for concrete rocky road was the best fit.

“I really want to appear on Bake off and I'm chuffed to win this engineering prize as I've had the chance to show off my baking skills as well as encourage pupils to think about their future careers.”

Professor Omar Laghrouche, Director of the Institute for Infrastructure and Environment, Heriot-Watt said:  “Well done to Catriona on her unique take into the world of engineering.

“With her creative, innovative and professional lessons she has certainly caught the imagination of her peers.

“She is sure to inspire the civil engineering stars of the future with her delicious home baking.”

Pitch 200 is part of the Year of Engineering, Scottish Year of Young People and the 200-year anniversary of the Institution of Civil Engineers. It challenged engineers to explain an idea, concept or project related to civil engineering in a creative way in only 200 seconds.