Engineering is all around us – it’s an intrinsic part of our society. In her new book, QEPrize Ambassador Roma Agrawal explores how construction has evolved from the mud huts of our ancestors to towers of steel that reach into the sky. Below is an excerpt from the book, which is out now!
On the morning of 12 March 1993, I went to school in the Juhu district of Mumbai as usual, with my hair tied neatly back, wearing a crisp white blouse and grey pinafore. My teeth were hidden by braces, which were interwoven with my choice of green bands; definitely not cool (yes, even at nine I was already the class nerd). At 2.00pm Mum picked up my sister and me in our lime-green Fiat and took us home. While she was parking the car, we raced up four flights of stairs in our daily competition to see who could make it to our front door first. But something felt different. We stopped at the last step; we couldn’t get to the door because our neighbour was standing there, nervously fiddling with her dupatta, looking distressed.
Why on earth would anyone use 2 weeks of annual leave to build a model railway? As STEM Ambassadors, we often joke that championing Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths is a full-time job. Problem is, we already have day jobs, as engineers. That’s why we spent our summer holiday being filmed by Love Productions for a Channel 4 show, surviving clouds of midges and rain.
You are probably questioning our sanity now, but when you’re as acutely aware of the need for more engineers in your industry then it’s hard not to seize every opportunity to promote the industry in a more positive light. Oh, and it sounded like a great challenge to take on an engineering project of such a grand scale, in a really tight time limit. Still not convinced you that it was a good idea? Well, we’ve interviewed each other to see if we can explain a bit more behind our reasons.
At over 80 metres in length, a single blade from a wind turbine is an impressive feat of engineering. Modern offshore wind turbine blades are now the largest fibreglass components ever cast in a single piece. This has been made possible through continuous improvement in materials development. The layering and structuring of fibreglass was originally a craft used for building the hulls of boats. Now, the design of composite materials – a group of materials which includes fibreglass – is done by international teams of engineers working together to create these record-breaking components.
Materials engineering is uniquely important to the design of wind turbines, particularly because there is so much of it! As the industry has grown, so has the size of our machines, with the largest now gathering wind from an area greater than three football pitches put together. The area that the blades sweep through is an important factor in turbine performance. At a given wind speed, the amount of power which can be extracted from the wind increases by the square of the blade length – 3 times longer blades, 9 times more available power. However, if things are simply scaled up, the mass or weight of the blade increases by the cube of the length – 3 times the length, 27 times the mass!
An engineer, scientist and social tech entrepreneur, I am currently studying for a PhD in Electrical Engineering at the University of Cambridge. The co-founder of two social tech start-ups, ‘Wudi‘ & ‘Favalley‘, my vision is to innovate, transform and empower society, revolutionising education through technology. I aspire to provide a platform for young people to become positive change makers for society.
Being in love with physics, exploring, and creating ‘stuff’, engineering came as an obvious choice to me. Trying to understand the mysterious ‘electric shock’ I received from objects as a child motivated me to take up electrical engineering as my specialisation. I started off with an undergraduate degree, then moved on to do a master’s and am now pursuing a PhD in the same area.
Even though I have always been a big fan of engineering and science, my childhood dream was to become a writer. Authoring two novels and three collections of poetry made me well known in the local community, and also consolidated my passion for this career. However, things changed after I stepped into high school and found a new paradise of physics and mathematics. Fascinated by the logics and equations that I never saw in any literature work, I was eager to learn more and dive deep. As a result, I graduated with the highest academic record and obtained an offer from one of the top universities in China focusing on engineering and science.
Sarah’s manager collects her award, with Sarah attending the event via FaceTime!
I never really knew what I wanted to do when I grew up, but I knew that I wanted to be part of a team, helping solve problems and doing something that I could be proud of. I decided to apply these desires to a career in the Royal Air Force, as an avionics technician. Here, I was working on radar, communication and flight systems on helicopters- this definitely ticked the right boxes for me!
In celebration of our global QEPrize Engineering Ambassadors’ network, we met up with some of our ambassadors to find out a bit more about what they do, and why they decided to become the engineers they are today.
3rd year Standard Grade Chemistry, Unit 3: “Hydrocarbons”, end of unit test… I got 100%! The energy industry had caught my heart, and from that point, I was hooked.
I applied to study Chemical Engineering at Imperial College in 2005. As a young gay teenager, the lure of London and starting a new life in a vibrant, metropolitan city was too enticing to turn down. Results day came, grades were achieved, and off I went at the tender age of 17.