Imagine that you’re in the middle of a festival crowd, dancing away to the most dynamic names in music. 50-foot fireballs are exploding into the air, audience members are being abducted by acrobatic performers and luminescent creatures are swooping from the sky. Oh, and imagine that you’re looking up at a 50-tonne mechanical spider.
Arcadia is a performance art collective renowned for engineering mechanical monsters that they use as large-scale performance spaces. Perhaps the most recognisable of these is The Spider, a 360-degree structure built from recycled materials. Created by sculptors, engineers, painters and pyrotechnicians, the arachnid is an experiential dance stage for festival attendees.
Referred to as a “noble profession” by Her Majesty, engineering is a field in which Queen Elizabeth II has long shown her support and admiration. She has been involved with a variety of projects throughout her reign, from driving an underground train to opening Diamond Light Source, the UK’s only synchrotron facility.
The photograph above was taken on 26 March 1976, when Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh opened the Royal Signals and Radar Establishment in Malvern, Worcestershire. Whilst they were there, The Queen became the first monarch to send an email.
At that time, the UK’s Ministry of Defence and the US Department of Defense were collaborating on the development of a future standard programming language, which eventually became Ada. The collaboration required access to the Department of Defense ARPANET (the precursor to the internet). Her Majesty initiated the collaboration by pressing a velvet covered computer key, which sent an email to the US Secretary of Defense.
Image above: Crown copyright 1976 released under Open Government Licence v3.0 from the Malvern Radar & Technology History Society.
Architecture has been borrowing from Mother Nature for millennia. The first structures were made from natural materials; wood, straw, stone and soils. Many common objects that we use today are inspired by plant life too – burdock burs inspired George de Mestral to invent Velcro in 1955, and wind turbines are inspired by the fins of humpback whales!
Today, as engineers face the issues caused by climate change and high energy consumption, they are drawing on nature again to change the way we build our homes and offices.
Dr Henry Yang is an aerospace engineer based in California, currently serving as the Chancellor of the University of California, Santa Barbara. Having authored over 180 scientific articles over his career, his current interests include developing bio-inspired materials, sensors, and actuators for building aerospace, mechanical, and civil structures. We are pleased to announce that Dr Yang is one of six new judges joining the QEPrize panel for the 2019 prize.
Why do skyscrapers sway? Can materials really repair themselves? Can one person cause a bridge to collapse?
QEPrize Ambassador Roma Agrawal has recently released a new book, exploring the mysteries of the built environment. To read an excerpt, click here!
We have five copies of BUILT to give away to our followers on Twitter. To be in with a chance of winning Roma’s new book, simply tweet us a picture of your favourite building, telling us why you love it so much! Make sure to use the hashtag #BUILT and tag @QEPrize in your tweet.
We are pleased to introduce a new judge to the QEPrize judging panel: Jinghai Li. Professor Li established the Energy-Minimization Multi-Scale (EMMS) model for gas-solid systems. Currently, he works to promote the concept of mesoscience based on the EMMS principle of compromise in competition as an interdisciplinary science. We spoke to Professor Li to find out more about him.
What do you consider to be the most important innovation of the last 100 years?
I think the most important innovation has been information technology, which has lead significant changes in social life and human behaviours, such as in communication and computation.
Why is it so important that we attract young people into the field of engineering? What motivates you to be an advocate for young engineers?
At the moment, research paradigm in science and engineering is changing very quickly, calling for new knowledge and new conceptual input. We need young engineers because they are more open to be involved in this change.
How do you inspire the next generation of engineers? It turns out that a batch of ‘flying’ eggs, some eye-catching PowerPoints and a whole lot of spaghetti can make a pretty good start.
On 21-23 March, a team of three Ambassadors visited Ashmount School in Islington, to inspire students as part of their STEM week. Their lessons were inspired by engineering ‘heroes’ in the form of Andrea Beatty’s characters, ‘Iggy Peck, Architect’ (year 1) and ‘Rosie Revere, Engineer’ (year 2). Year 3 learned about Lonnie G Johnson (NASA engineer who invented the super soaker).
Dr Raghunath Mashelkar is a chemical engineer from India. He is currently National Research Professor, Chairman of India’s National Innovation Foundation and President of Global Research Alliance. We are pleased to announce that Dr Mashelkar will be joining the QEPrize judging panel for the 2019 prize.
Why did you become involved with the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering?
Nobel prizes in chemistry, physics, economics, literature, peace and physiology or medicine acknowledged the path breaking human achievements in these fields. But for the first time, Queen Elizabeth Prize in Engineering recognises the great transformative and game changing role that engineers play. Most importantly, the prize recognises ground breaking innovations that bring global benefit to humanity. As a proud engineer, I feel extremely privileged to be a part of the eminent jury for the selection of this great prize.