Young Engineer hoists international prize

3 min read

Tanya Budd, 18, from Winnersh in Berkshire, recently won $5,000 in prize money at the US Coast Guard award for boating and water safety at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

Tanya Budd, 18, from Winnersh in Berkshire recently won $5,000 in prize money at the US Coast Guard award for boating and water safety at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Indianapolis, Indiana. Tanya was invited to the event having been named Young Engineer for Britain in 2005 for her Hypo Hoist device, which enables sailors who have fallen overboard to be safely retrieved from the water.

“It all went over my head, really,” said Tanya of the award ceremony. “I was amazed I won; the competition was fierce. My friend had to nudge me to go up, and I was almost in tears. Then to look out over all the people - there were 1,500 of them from all over the world - it was awesome."

Tanya got the idea for Hypo Hoist while doing her AS level, which is the second year of A-levels. “I took Product Design and Resistant Materials at my school, Waingels College, and had to design something of benefit to the community.

“I have been sailing since I was four. During the man overboard exercise I realised that manoeuvring the boat was just half of the equation, the hard bit is getting the person on board, especially when they’re waterlogged. If I was by myself, I couldn’t manage it.”

The Hypo Hoist is rapid and efficient man-overboard equipment for rescuing conscious or unconscious people. It is a net device which can be attached to the boat by D-rings, snap shacks or aluminium poles and works off the main halyard, the rope used to hoist up the mainsail. It can be operated by one crewmember alone, and minimises risk and injuries. It also reduces the risk of hypothermia and cardiac trauma by keeping the person safe in a horizontal position, maintaining their blood pressure. It rolls up when on board and the rescued person can be left on the deck, already in the recovery position, until medical help arrives.

Tanya demonstrates the Hypo Hoist

Tanya said, “There was no one particular engineering challenge that stood out, as it was all new to me! I lathed and machined the aluminium poles. I even etched and anodised guidance arrows onto the poles. I had to go down to the science lab for that. There is a bungee cord through the middle of the poles to help them snap together, but in a panic situation, it’s best to keep it foolproof.”

Hypo Hoist is currently being tested and awaiting MCA (Maritime and Coastguard Agency) approval. Tanya will have a stand at the Seawork show in Southampton in June. The public launch will be at the Southampton boat show in September.

“I’ve had an enormous amount of commercial interest, including some really big companies,” said Tanya. “In the end I settled on SeaSafe Systems, a small marine safety product company based on the Isle of Wight. I liked them, and I get to keep my patent and receive a percentage of sales.”

After her summer work placement, Tanya will study Mechanical Engineering at Brunel. “I loved it when I visited and can’t wait to start there,” she said.

Tanya is returning to the Young Engineer finals this year to act as a mentor for the contestants. She has also been invited by the Institute of Civil Engineers to judge their media project along with Adam Hart-Davis. Hart-Davis was also at a reception Tanya attended at Buckingham Palace to encourage young engineers, hosted by the Duke of York. Tanya has two Isambard Kingdom Brunel Awards and has been invited to be a speaker at the Brunel 100th anniversary celebrations in Bristol in July.

“My advice to young people with an idea is to get advice,” said Tanya. “Once you have the idea, do the research behind it. People respect the fact that you’re young and haven’t studied engineering yet, so you’ll need a lot of help. I say always ask why.”

Kate Bellingham, former BBC Tomorrow’s World presenter and president of Young Engineers, said, ”I’m so proud of Tanya, I think she’s great. It’s really good to have her get recognition on an international stage.

“Her Hypo Hoist satisfied a real need and provided a real solution to a real problem. She carried out its production with good quality and has great communication skills, so she can not only talk about the product but present an excellent portfolio too. The design and development qualities are as important as the end result. It must be commercially viable.”

Bellingham’s advice to young people who think they might be interested in engineering is to get hands-on experience, meet engineers, talk to them and ask what they do. There are also several initiatives to get involved in, including Young Engineers clubs.

“School leavers shouldn’t just think of themselves as a UCAS listing,” said Bellingham. “Instead, look at yourself and see what matches your own engineering skills and interests. It was Tanya’s interest in sailing that gave her the idea for the Hypo Hoist.”

The closing date for this year’s Young Engineer for Britain award is 31 May. “The project could be the entrant’s GCSE project or his or her own idea they want to develop. It’s a good learning experience,” said Bellingham.

“When I tell people what I do, encouraging teenagers to make a difference through engineering, adults can be dismissive and say, ‘They’re only school kids, what can they do?’ But I am humbled and proud of their achievements," said Bellingham. "They are a real talent, the future of Britain. The award winners are the cream of that talent, and Tanya is a brilliant ambassador.”