Perception filter

Ask a child to define ‘engineer’ and you’ll likely be told that an engineer is everything from the man who fixes the boiler to a bearded eccentric gesticulating wildly in a laboratory.

These definitions of ‘engineer’ were offered to Stephen Burgin, Alstom UK Country President and Head of Alstom Power (UK) on a visit to a school.

What our young friends don’t seem to appreciate is that the mobile ‘phone in their pocket, the games console in the bedroom or the personal computer – arguably the most liberating post-war machine ever made, given the right software and an internet connection – are all products of engineering ingenuity.

It would appear that anyone attempting to bridge this huge knowledge gap has quite a tricky job on their hands.

However, the editorial team at The Engineer has yet to come across individuals or organisations that don’t relish a challenge and starting this week are a series of events that, on one hand, will attempt to engage youngsters with engineering and on the other will offer insights into the opportunities afforded by space technology transfer and the challenges presented by planning high-speed rail.

Kicking off in Manchester on March 11 is ‘The Big Bang: UK Young Scientists’ and Engineers’ Fair’.

The three day Fair, which is now in its second year, is geared toward 9 to 19 year olds and has the support of industry giants such as Astra Zeneca, BAE Systems, Siemens and Shell.

Workshops include ‘The Journey of a Fuel Rod – The Nuclear Fuel Cycle’, where students will learn about the different stages of the nuclear fuel cycle; ‘AlphaBeat’, exploring the role that engineering plays in all aspects of modern life; and ‘So you think you can design a jet engine?’ where Rolls-Royce and Manchester University will take attendees on a virtual 3D journey through the key components of the jet engine. Young engineers from Rolls-Royce will be on hand to talk about the technologies employed in engine design.

This high profile event culminates with the National Science & Engineering Competition Awards to celebrate science and engineering engagement and achievement.

Technology Transfer is on the agenda at Space Tech 2010 – Space Technology Symposium which takes place on March 10 at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, at the
Harwell Science and Innovation Campus.

The event is geared toward industry, military, or government representatives who wish to discover the latest technologies from the space industry and make direct contact with the UK’s leading technology groups.

European space technologies are becoming increasingly available for development and licensing to the non-space industry through technology transfer and this event will provide attendees an opportunity to network and exploit these innovations developed by leading European research organizations.

Back on terra firma and news that a white paper is expected this week from the government on its plans to expand high-speed rail by 2025, adding to the existing High Speed 1 (HS1) Channel Tunnel Rail Link.

The government’s High Speed Two company has sounded out a route between London and the West Midlands, and development beyond that at the level of ’broad corridors’, considering the potential to extend to Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, the North East, and Scotland.

Plans for a terminus in London have drawn criticism from the Conservatives who have said they would build one at Heathrow Airport to deter passengers from taking domestic flights. The Conservatives also propose direct connections with HS1 at the not yet opened Stratford International station.

Under Labour plans passengers will have to change for Heathrow

Public consultation is expected to start in the autumn. If approved construction could begin in 2017, with completion due in 2025.