Royal Academy of Engineering announces new virtual museum

The Royal Academy of Engineering has announced plans to create a new virtual museum which aims to challenge the narrow stereotype of engineering.

The Museum of Engineering will allow visitors to explore ground-breaking engineering innovations tackling societal issues and shaping the everyday, in an effort to inspire engineers of the future and address a diversity shortfall in the industry.

Engineering bodies push taster days as a way to attract young talent

Driving a new era of collaboration in engineering skills outreach

Research carried out by EngineeringUK in 2018 estimated that just 12 per cent of the engineering workforce are female and just 9 per cent are from BAME backgrounds.

Due to be rolled out in 2021, the virtual museum will be accessible via QR Codes or ‘QRtefacts’, as well as through the Google Arts & Culture platform. Placed in accessible locations around the UK, each QRtefact will lead users to an exhibit within the online museum.

The first collection of exhibits will include the carbon fire blade of Paralympic gold medallist Jonnie Peacock, enabling visitors to learn about the engineering that went into making the blade and how engineering has helped to shape the sporting world of today with high-performance prosthetics.

Paralympic gold medallist Jonnie Peacock (Image: RAEng)

Other exhibits planned for the virtual museum are said to include:

  • The Factory-in-a-box developed by Professor Harris Makatsoris and his team at King’s College London, which minimises space and equipment needed for high volume manufacturing, making it possible to produce RNA-based vaccines, such as one being developed for Covid-19, at a faster rate than a typical vaccine manufacturing plant
  • The pBone: the first 3D printed ABS plastic trombone, weighing less than a 1kg, designed to encourage younger players who struggle with the weight and balance of a normal trombone
  • How the Singing in the Rain production, relaunching at Sadler’s Wells Theatre in 2021, made it rain on stage whilst ensuring equipment stayed dry

The announcement came on this year’s This Is Engineering Day (4 November 2020), led by the Royal Academy of Engineering and part of Tomorrow’s Engineers Week, a week of activities designed to encourage young people to experience the world of engineering.

Commenting on his blade becoming the museum’s first QRtefact, Peacock said: “Whenever I wear my blade I get such a response, particularly from children, able bodied and disabled, who think it’s really cool. I’d like them to know that I wouldn’t be where I am today and have this super cool prosthetic leg if it wasn’t for engineers and amazing feats of engineering, which is why I am supporting This Is Engineering Day to help demonstrate some of the many different ways engineering makes a difference and to inspire the engineers of the future.”

virtual museum
The virtual museum will be accessible via QR Codes or ‘QRtefacts’(Image: RAEng)

On This Is Engineering Day the Academy also called on organisations and brands that rely on engineers to nominate engineering innovations that can be exhibited in the museum next year.

Dr Hayaatun Sillem CBE, chief executive of the Royal Academy of Engineering, commented: “Engineers play a profoundly important role in shaping the world around us, however research reveals that 76 per cent of young people aged 11-19 and 73 per cent of parents do not know a lot about what those working in engineering actually do.

“This is an issue that affects all of us because without a skilled and diverse engineering workforce, we will not be able to power a sustainable economic recovery in the UK, or tackle some of our biggest global challenges.

“Engineering is a fantastic career if you want to make a difference, improve people’s lives and shape the future, and through our Museum of Engineering Innovation we want to inspire many more people from all parts of society to become future engineers.”