Astronauts on board the International Space Station are notoriously thrifty. With limited storage space, and a long trip home to pick up extra supplies, resources must be recycled many times.
A clever life support system controls the atmospheric pressure on board and provides clean water and fresh air to astronauts. Filtration systems convert waste water from showers, urine and even sweat into drinking water, while carbon dioxide scrubbers clean up the air for breathing. Some products, however, inevitably go to waste and are ejected into space.
On their much longer journeys, Mars-bound astronauts could see themselves recycling everything (and we mean everything!) to reach the red planet in one piece. Chemical engineer, Mark Blenner has been studying how the microbes that give us bread and beer can help them get there.
Director of the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, Keshini Navaratnam, is joined by two leading roboticists to discuss how autonomous systems can inspire future generations.
Alongside being an electrical engineer, Dr Ayanna Howard is an educator, researcher and innovator. Her work focuses on how humans and autonomous systems can work together and the ethics behind doing so. This research has allowed Ayanna to make significant contributions to artificial intelligence, computer vision and robotics.
Nigel Whitehead is the Group Managing Director for Programmes and Support at BAE Systems, one of the world’s largest defence companies, developing the most advanced, technology-led defence, aerospace and security solutions on offer. The multinational organisation employs over 83,000 people in more than 40 countries and works alongside customers and local partners around the world.
We spoke to Nigel to hear his thoughts on the challenges of diversity in engineering and the role big businesses can play in bringing about change.
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.
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.