Monday, 21 April 2014
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The week ahead

Film competition, nuclear plans and a UAV in a pear tree

There doesn’t appear to be much happening this week, what with the Christmas holiday season almost upon us.

But oh my word, what a wonderful time it is. Staff across the land are preparing to log off and head to a hostelry to bond over booze and nibbles before lurching home to a comfy bed and dry mouth in the morning.

Here’s hoping much fun will be had in Britain’s chrome and wood covered bars and that the ‘music’ played therein - at decibel levels similar to those of a nuclear bomb being detonated - doesn’t stop meaningful discourse.

A quick glance from the windows at Engineer Towers last Friday afternoon revealed a merry visage of office workers drunkenly dodging angry looking shoppers who looked more ready to kill than give and receive gifts.

Happy times indeed, but let’s not allow digression to divert us from a handful of events and items of news that are worthy of a second look.

For example film makers are being invited by the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) to enter a short film competition.

Run in conjunction with the Global Grand Challenges Summit, the competition asks entrants to make film that highlights the importance of engineering.

RAEng tell us, ‘The summit is a major initiative by the national academies of engineering in the UK, the US and China, designed to bring together leading international innovators and young people to explore new approaches to solving some of the most pressing challenges of the 21st century.’

The film competition asks 18 to 27 year-olds in the UK to produce a film of up to two minutes long and RAEng add that it should highlight ‘the importance of engineering and how engineers can tackle global grand challenges in areas that will be discussed at the summit, including: sustainability, enriching life, growth, resilience.’

These themes were echoed at a panel-event organised by Atkins last week, which looked at the future of engineering skills in the UK, presenting two arguments designed to best attract youngsters into the profession.

Representatives from Atkins, Imperial College, Futureal and ATOS made up the debating panels, with one team presenting the argument that “solving the greatest engineering challenges of the day” is most likely to inspire children to choose STEM subjects at school. The other argued that the opportunity “to build and leave your mark on history” is the strongest driver to encourage young people into engineering.

Seventy per cent of those in attendance agreed that the former argument was more potent. Given the vigour and confidence of youth the world over, Briefing predicts it won’t be long before next generation of engineers address food and water shortages, climate change, natural disasters, urbanisation and energy supply.

Persuasiveness of another kind now and news that IET has opened a competition for budding orators, with a prize of £1,000 awaiting the winner.

Their Present Around the World competition is open to students, apprentices and young professionals in engineering or technology aged between 18-26 years who are passionate about engineering or technology and can convey that to an audience.

IET say the competition ‘provides participants a great opportunity to showcase their presentation skills through a 10-minute presentation, followed by question and answer session.’

The deadline for entries is December 31, 2012 and candidates shortlisted for the preliminary round will be contacted two weeks after the deadline. More details can be found here.

Still with notable diary events and the 2012 Lloyd’s Register Educational Trust Lecture and Dinner, which this year sees BAE Systems’ Nigel Whitehead FREng discuss Taranis, a stealthy, unmanned aircraft designed to be capable of long-range, precision strikes.

BAE say the technology demonstrator will ‘add to the understanding of strategic Unmanned Combat Aircraft Systems (UCAS), through the demonstration of relevant technologies and their integration into a representative UAV.’

Whitehead, BAE Systems’ group MD, Programmes and Support, is scheduled to discuss the programme and address lessons learned since the concept’s inception, which is being developed in collaboration with the MoD, GE Aviation, Qinetiq, and Rolls-Royce.

Taranis is no stranger to the pages The Engineer, given that it is one of the UK’s most ambitious engineering challenges and more can be found from our In-Depth section here.

The week’s events are rounded off with Friday’s planning Inspectorate deadline to submit its recommendations regarding the construction of a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point in Somerset to energy secretary Ed Davey, who will then have three months to make the decision on whether to grant or refuse consent.

Friday also sees the closure of the BIS and DECC consultation on a compensation scheme for energy intensive industries. More on that subject from our news pages can be found here.

Readers' comments (3)

  • the future of engineering in england will always be wantng , until proper appenticeships are seriously back on the agenda. many governments have not addressed this to our cost. we have lost too much ground for an early recovery but we should try harder and now!

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  • As J. K Galbraith, the US economist pointed out towards the end of the Thatcher era, and notwithstanding present attempts, albeit feeble and misdirected (and amazingly in the case of Baker and Heseltine who were at that time active participants in the very policies that caused destruction of Engineering) to redress the situation...it will take the UK economy 100 years to recover from Thatcher, if ever!

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  • Fascinated to read the comments about the future of Engineering: and particularly those describing the curtailment of former apprenticeship schemes that prepared many young persons (myself included) for a career as a professional Engineer. I would like to describe aspects of my career because I believe my 'story' is relevant: and may perhaps assist, even alter, the thinking of so many presently floundering around in the morass that is so-called Higher Education: and the presently poor and ineffective links between technology, manufacture and academia.

    Later on in my career, I had the privilege of teaching at Coventry Polytechnic (which, because the then principal, one Goldstein had delusions of grandeur, was made into a University in 1992-primarily so that he could call himself a Vice Chancellor). Coventry started life as Lanchester Polytechnic - named after the great Engineering polymath, Lanchester. His contribution to Engineering (early Operations Research efforts and cyclic gear concepts) was profound, like that of another Coventrty 'son' Hurbert (lathes and gear-cutting machines)

    It offered and taught outstandingly practical courses in what is of course an Applied Science, Engineering. Indeed the title of my own degree St Andrews 1960-64 (notionally in Mechanical Engineering) is Applied Science. Even though its actual content was applied mathematics almost exclusively.

    During my time at Coventry I had the privilege of teaching and supervising many Erasmus students from Germany and elsewhere: most of whom had done a formal apprenticeship in Engineering and then, having shown academic 'promise' and potential, been encouraged to take their studies further.

    To me, this situation represented a mirror of my own circumstances, albeit 40 years before, and was the perfect start to a university course. Not only did my students have a wide understanding of the practicalities of Engineering processes and operations the necessary skills which could be enhanced by further academic study: they had a feel for that essential 'link' between those who work with brain and those who work with the precision aspects of their brawn. That is they were already skilled craftsmen, just like those who they might have to manage and lead in their future careers.

    I had the exceptional good fortune to fail my 'A' level mathematics exam: thus negating the possibility of my studying Physics at Bristol University. Working for one year before University as a student apprentice -a title which distinguished but did not separate us from the firms craft apprentices-for a year at Woods of Colchester (a firm which offered an amazing combination of skills, mechanical, structural, electrical engineering, fluid flow and processes, and so on) gave me that same link to and respect for technicians, time served tradesmen, toolmakers and production staff which my German students enjoyed and developed.

    I do believe that combination is essential for those who will 'operate' as professional Engineers in all aspects of Technology and its application of Science.

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