Ghosts of Christmas Presents

Jason Ford

News editor

Briefing has searched high and low for engineering events taking place this week but is sad to report that there’s not much happening (cue a flurry of emails telling me that I am in fact very wrong!)

One activity, however, that seems to be dominating many of our lives is shopping for Christmas presents, which brings us neatly onto stocking fillers for the next generation of engineers and technicians.

Under pressure but still dominant in the automotive market is the internal combustion engine and youngsters can learn all they need to know about Alphonse Beau de Rochas’ invention by building their own.

The Haynes internal combustion engine model kit contains over 100 parts and a transparent enclosure, so budding automotive engineers can see how all the assembled parts work together.

A source of energy that often polarizes The Engineer community is wind power so what better way to make your case – for or against – than with a Windmill generator from 4M/Kidz Labs?

You’re encouraged to recycle a plastic bottle in order to make the tower but once that’s sourced you and your young can assemble the ‘free energy generator’.

As you’d expect, no batteries are required and, once operational, the windmill lights up an LED.

Still with environmentally-friendly technologies and the Green Science Weather Station, again from 4M/Kidz Labs.

This multi-faceted gizmo is claimed to let youngsters track weather changes, learn about weather in general and do experiments on the greenhouse effect.

Budding chemists could do a lot worse than receive the Chemistry Lab from Trends UK.

Dr. David Webster, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry and a Chartered chemist, is said to have designed and tested the 106 experiments described in the gift’s instruction booklet.

The experiments get progressively more complex throughout the booklet but all are designed to bring the subject to life, making the recipient more aware of how chemistry impacts his or daily life.

All the gifts described can be bought online at Curios Minds.

Here at The Engineer scientific and technical gifts were very much part of the team’s Christmas experience.

Andrew Czyzewski found Saturn with a telescope he received, confirming for himself that the planet is real and not the figment of someone else’s imagination.

Similarly, Stuart Nathan could be found peering at samples through a microscope, and also building what he describes as electronic gizmos like a crystal radio and multi-tone buzzer.

Sam Shead reflects fondly on an astronomy set that required him to paint nine spheres, which represented planets to be hung from the ceiling (and in the correct order one hopes).

Jon Excell’s finger printing kit and Ant World hinted at a future career as a forensic entomologist but the common thread among the team is the inclusion of Meccano, Lego and Lego technical sets underneath the Christmas tree.

The Engineer is sure that the myriad of scientific gifts available for children can go some way to sparking a life-long interest in science subjects. Maybe some will take it even further to make a rewarding career of it?

After all, it would be nice to think that in thirty years time the future author of Briefing would be living in a country with a fully-rebalanced economy that is overflowing with engineers and technicians.

As it stands, the current author is looking back to October and the report from IMechE that suggests 31,100 new graduate engineers will be required every year for the next five years to meet industry demand in 2017. This compares to the 12,000 engineering students that graduate annually.