Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering

Design

Soundbops: making music through play

  • Posted by QEPrize Admin
  • 16 August 2017

Music is magical!

However, access to music is limited by the need for a high level of skill and understanding. This is particularly true for young children. Most children do not start learning an instrument until they are 8 years old, with the guitar and piano being popular choices. Music makes kids more mindful, creative, intelligent, social and happy. Studies suggest 96% of all parents want their child to learn music. To introduce children to music, they are often given shrunken versions of adult-sized instruments. These are hard to play, unengaging and are not social, discouraging budding musicians. Many children drop out of piano lessons due to disinterest.

My goal is to empower music learning and play in young children. My dad taught me to play the guitar when I was young, and I want all young people to experience the joy of music as I did. The concept for my innovation came from watching children play a small keyboard. They would only ever play one note at a time and would not play the black notes at all. Playing on their own, it was not a collaborative or fun experience

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The staircase that puts a spring in your step

  • Posted by QEPrize Admin
  • 11 August 2017

Engineers from Georgia Tech and Emory University have designed a staircase that takes the load off when climbing up to bed. The energy-recycling steps store up the energy of people heading downstairs and use it to give them a boost on the way back up.

Loaded with springs and equipped with pressure sensors, steps sink to meet those below when they detect footsteps. The step then locks into place, storing the energy generated by the user’s bodyweight compressing the springs inside.

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Plant-inspired robot creeps towards success

  • Posted by QEPrize Admin
  • 7 August 2017

Edging along fences and creeping up walls, climbing plants send out tendrils in search of the sunniest spots in the garden.

In the lab, researchers have replicated the movements of nature countless times. Robots can walk, run and jump. They have even learned how to swim. Now, a team of mechanical engineers from Stanford University have taken inspiration for their latest robot from climbing plants. Following the lead of creepers such as ivy, the soft robot shoots out a tendril to ‘grow’ itself forwards.

The concept behind the idea is very simple and uses a process called ‘eversion’. The robot itself is a tube of soft plastic, folded inside itself. (Think of those slippery ‘water snake’ toys from the 90s!). As pressurised air fills the tube, the folded material turns the right way out, propelling the tip forwards.

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Smart specs offer sight to those with visual impairments

  • Posted by QEPrize Admin
  • 3 August 2017

Dr Stephen Hicks started OxSight from his lab at the University of Oxford. He set out to develop a wearable prosthetic for people with visual impairments. Twelve months later, the product is getting ready to go to market.

Unlike many start-ups and spin out companies, Oxsight has a very specialised audience. The product’s target audience are those registered as legally blind. Its unique selling point is that the smart specs’ technology can allow people to see again.

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Designing a brighter future

  • Posted by QEPrize Admin
  • 1 August 2017

People across the world see one of the most important roles of engineering as inspiring new innovations that can change and improve society around us.

Paul Westbury, Group Technical Director of Laing O’Rourke explained how the innovative nature of engineers is not only helping to drive economic growth, but to change perceptions. “Engineers are increasingly seen as smart, creative and sociable people who are well connected with the world around them,” he said. “A welcome shift from the dated stereotypes of the past!”

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Nanofilter: A move to impact millions of lives

  • Posted by QEPrize Admin
  • 4 July 2017

I invented a low-cost water filter called Nanofilter®, which cleans contaminated water in order to make it drinkable. Right now, about 12,000 people use the filter every day and the plan is to impact millions of lives.

Growing up, my community in Tanzania didn’t have clean drinking water, and I will never forget how horrible that was. As a child, I would get worms because the water I drank was so dirty, and I wished someone would make it easy for us to access clean water. So, I decided to take matters into my own hands and help solve the problem facing my community: I did a PhD in Chemical Engineering and invented the Nanofilter®.

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Industrial Fellowships: collaboration at the cutting edge of engineering

  • Posted by QEPrize Admin
  • 31 May 2017

Working with other teams and individuals is one of the most vital aspects of engineering, allowing teams to achieve far more than they could ever do alone. Not only can projects be completed faster and cheaper when working together, but pooling and knowledge and expertise can act as a key driver for innovation.

At the Royal Academy of Engineering, an Industrial Fellowship scheme gives researchers the opportunity to do just that. Joining forces with industrial partners, academics from across the field of engineering can undertake their own collaborative research projects in an industrial environment.  

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Interactive denim: Google’s Project Jacquard

  • Posted by QEPrize Admin
  • 8 May 2017

Google’s Advanced Technology and Project Group, or ATAP, has developed an innovative user- controlled technology; embedding sensors and feedback devices into clothing.

As a small but intense research and development incubator, ATAP project leaders have just 24 months to turn their ideas into finished products.  ‘Project Jacquard’ plans to integrate connected electronics directly into garments, allowing the wearer to interact with their mobile device simply by tapping their sleeve.

The novel concept uses thin metallic, and therefore conductive, alloys combined with a mixture of natural and synthetic fibres. By blending conductive threads with silks, cottons and polyesters, the team can weave touch and gesture interactivity seamlessly into any item of clothing.

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