Modern engineering has moved on from the stage where hardware was always used for manufacturing, and computer software was necessary for programming. Today, we are close to being able to use purely biological approaches to produce drugs, food, clothing and even industrial goods. This discipline is called biological engineering, and progress has accelerated in the last ten years thanks to massive drops in the price of both DNA production and characterisation. However, the complexity of biology and the long time it takes to prototype proteins is still a major roadblock to progress.
At the end of last year, creative images and video spanning tissue engineering, aircraft engines and nanotechnology won prizes in the University of Cambridge Department of Engineering 2017 ZEISS Photography Competition. Here are some of the incredible visuals that took the top prizes.
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.
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.
Over the years, drones have gained popularity in the engineering and construction industry. Small and simple to fly, drones can quickly snap photos from every angle, giving a bird’s eye view of inaccessible areas. But thousands of photos are meaningless without the right tools to manage them. Drone mapping technology, or ‘photogrammetry’, helps make this task easier by converting drone photos into a 3D model. However, having only the 3D model is still not practical in most engineering work, especially in infrastructure inspection and maintenance. Trik is a specialised system, creating a 3D database. This allows engineering companies to make the most of their drone data.
Photography was invented here in the UK, back in 1830s. There are so many layers to a photograph: the ability to share a story and to evoke emotions; the power to expand the viewer’s field of vision; the universal language it speaks; and most importantly, the ability to create new meanings. 180 years on, photography continues to fascinate us, yet it remains inaccessible to many parts of the developing world. This is particularly true for marginalized women and girls, where socio-economic and cultural barriers prohibit them from using digital tools. 200 million fewer women than men own mobile phones.
Student entrepreneurs Siena and India are taking on the food waste challenge with their innovative, fridge scanning app. What started as a classroom project has grown to a working prototype, winning its inventors the Big Bang Fair’s Junior Engineer of the Year award and a shot at pitching their idea at St James’ Palace. We met up with them to find out more!
Tell us a bit more about the Eat Me app. How does it work?
Siena: Eat Me is an IOT solution that helps transform the relationship between the consumer and the amount of food they waste in their homes. We have built a working prototype that turns any fridge into a smart fridge. It scans best before dates, optimises menus, orders food or even alerts another user if you are running out of certain products in your fridge.
Engineering is responsible for the pulleys, wheels and bows and arrows that carried us towards civilisation. It powered the SS Great Britain across the Atlantic and raised the Eiffel Tower. Without engineering, we wouldn’t have powerful computers tucked away in pockets or a direct line to outer space. Since its inception thousands of years ago, engineering has undoubtedly shaped our world. The question we’re addressing this month, however, is what happens next?