People often associate engineering with bridges and buildings, but, in fact, engineering is all around us. From sustainable coffee cups and people-powered pavements to new medical technologies, quantum computers, and the internet of things, there is a huge range of engineering wonders that we encounter in our day-to-day. The sheer variety of these innovations never fails to amaze me, but two of my favourites are an incredible paint called Inesfly, and a videogame called MalariaSpot. Both of these – while entirely unknown to most – save thousands of lives from insect-borne diseases every year.
In 2018, several of the ways that we produce power exist in far more refined forms than their 19th-century industrial period counterparts and, complemented by renewable energy sources, help to propel the world forward at a previously unimaginable rate. However, another source of energy used today remains the same as it did long before the factory: us.
Following on from our recent article on SpecialEffect, we now turn to Be My Eyes, a company working on Assistive Technology developed to help visually impaired people. We hear about what they do, what a day in the life looks like for the team, and why they chose to interweave technology with the human connection.
Architecture has been borrowing from Mother Nature for millennia. The first structures were made from natural materials; wood, straw, stone and soils. Many common objects that we use today are inspired by plant life too – burdock burs inspired George de Mestral to invent Velcro in 1955, and wind turbines are inspired by the fins of humpback whales!
Today, as engineers face the issues caused by climate change and high energy consumption, they are drawing on nature again to change the way we build our homes and offices.
Why do skyscrapers sway? Can materials really repair themselves? Can one person cause a bridge to collapse?
QEPrize Ambassador Roma Agrawal has recently released a new book, exploring the mysteries of the built environment. To read an excerpt, click here!
We have five copies of BUILT to give away to our followers on Twitter. To be in with a chance of winning Roma’s new book, simply tweet us a picture of your favourite building, telling us why you love it so much! Make sure to use the hashtag #BUILT and tag @QEPrize in your tweet.
Electronically displayed information is everywhere; smartphones, laptops, TV, advertising billboards, wearables… the list of devices we use goes on and on. These displays are mostly based on either liquid crystal (LCD) or organic light emitting diode (OLED) technology. These are great technologies, but they are not without limitations. We have all experienced the poor readability of a phone screen in sunlight and short battery life, largely due to the high power consumption of the display. Recent research has also shown that evening use of these light-emitting devices can negatively affect sleep and next-morning alertness.
So how can we design the next generation of displays to address these issues? A promising approach is to develop displays which can reflect natural ambient light or room lights to illuminate the screen, rather than using the powerful backlighting used in LCDs. Deployed in eReader devices, reflective displays provide vastly improved power consumption and outdoor readability. But this current form of reflective display technology cannot render good colour, nor deliver video rate refresh rates – a major limiting factor to wider application.
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.
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.