Across the world, we look to engineers to solve our biggest problems, improve the quality of our lives and drive progress in society. Yet interest in engineering lags behind other key industries such as science and maths, leaving a heavy burden for engineers to shoulder.
Paul Westbury, a QEPrize judge and group technical director of international engineering organisation, Laing O’Rourke, highlighted the need to work closely with other industries to drive innovation.
Hidden away in the Lentink lab at Stanford University, a dedicated team of engineers – and a parrotlet named Gary – have been uncovering the secrets of avian flight. With a brand new method to record how a bird’s wing changes shape in flight, the team hopes to better understand the forces that keep them in the air.
These forces are never more challenged than inside city limits. As space to grow outwards is limited, our cities grow ever taller, bringing with them a ‘skyscraper wind’ effect. When wind collides with the side of a tall building it is directed towards the ground, creating downdraughts and gusty conditions at street level. Clusters of skyscrapers add to the effect, squeezing wind through narrow corridors.
Rhys Phillips is a research engineer at Airbus Group Innovations, where he works in the lightning and electrostatics team. As an active science communicator, QEPrize Ambassador and STEM ambassador, Rhys regularly gives public talks and has even received awards from STEMNet and the Institute of Physics for his public engagement work. We met him this month to find out a little more about what it takes to keep planes in the air.
Rhys, tell us what you do as a research engineer…
I work in a team that focuses primarily on two areas of research. The first is lightning protection for the next generation of aircraft. The second is developing an understanding of the fundamental physics of the electrostatic environment during fuel tank filling inside aircraft.
On 26th January this year I had the pleasure of watching 20th Century Fox’s new film Hidden Figures with a group of school girls from Manchester. This was an exclusive premiere screening organised by the Manchester United Foundation, preceded by a panel Q&A which allowed the girls to find out what it is really like to work in a STEM career. My fellow panel members were Ginny Buckley (broadcaster and motoring journalist), Anita Bernie (Director of Spacecraft Platforms at Surrey Satellite Technology), Hazel Macnamara (Audit Partner at PWC) Elspeth Finch (Chair of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Innovators’ Network) and Rachel Riley (mathematician and presenter of Countdown).
Virtual reality and adaptive learning could soon become essential additions to the modern teachers’ toolkit. With games becoming more realistic than ever before, Greenwich University’s senior lecturer in disruptive technologies saw the perfect opportunity for innovation.
Dr Ioannis Paraskevopolous has been awarded a £30,000 industrial fellowship by the Royal Academy of Engineering and has teamed up with leading science and engineering company, Qinetiq, to bring his interactive learning experience to life. The Collective Innovative Training Environment, or xCITE as he calls it, is the digital classroom of the future.
When we think about space exploration, most of us instinctively call to mind white-suited astronauts stepping out onto launch-pads; a flag stitched to their left shoulder, a space agency emblem splashed across their chests. As of 2015, 70 governments around the world boasted a space programme. Six of those are equipped with full launch capabilities, sending rockets, satellites and probes into orbit. At the present time, only three are capable of human spaceflight.
At the turn of the millennium, entrepreneurs began to fight back against government monopolies on space. They began designing, and a decade later deploying, their own competitive space systems.
Sean Gallagher is a senior additive manufacture development engineer at BAE Systems and a QEPrize Ambassador. We spoke to him to find out a little more about what additive manufacturing really is, and how it can revolutionise design and engineering in the world of aerospace.
What is additive manufacturing and how does it help?
Additive manufacture, or 3D printing, is still a relatively new technology, which has grown massively in the last decade. The growing availability of new metallic and plastic materials continues to develop the scope of the technology, and therefore the impact it can have.
Whilst still supporting modelling and rapid prototyping to help us speed up design development, we can now start to develop products which are more fit for purpose. These can be made quicker, are lighter and often cheaper than conventional methods would allow. All of this means we can be more adaptable to meet our customer’s needs, using a technology that allows us to be more responsive and affordable than ever before.
For years, Maia Weinstock, the deputy editor of MIT News, has been creating miniature LEGO figurines to honor and promote such scientists and engineers as MIT Institute Professor Emerita Mildred Dresselhaus, Vice President for Research Maria T. Zuber, and Department of Chemical Engineering head Paula Hammond, the David H. Koch Chair Professor in Engineering. The figures are Weinstock’s playful way of boosting the visibility of scientists, in particular the work of female scientists.
Now, a set of LEGOs Weinstock created celebrating the history of women at NASA is about to blast off. On Tuesday, LEGO announced that Weinstock’s project, which spotlights five women who made historic contributions to the U.S. space program, has been selected to become an official LEGO set.