In celebration of the digital release of 20th Century Fox’s Academy Award nominated ‘Hidden Figures’, I was invited to take part in a very special movie night featuring a panel discussion of engineers from both BME backgrounds and the space industry. Joining me on the panel was fellow QEPrize Ambassador and structural engineer, Roma Agrawal; director for spacecraft platforms and demonstration missions at Surrey Satellite Technology Limited, Anita Bernie; and President and CEO of the Association for Consultancy and Engineering, Dr Nelson Ogunshakin. Chairing the evening’s discussion was Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE, host of the BBC’s ‘The Sky at Night’.
The event opened with a welcome from Dame Ann Dowling, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering and a Trustee of the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering. She began by introducing the work of the Academy in promoting engineering to young people, and hailed films such as Hidden Figures for highlighting the variety of exciting careers on offer, as well as the incredible human stories behind them.
I was inspired to set up InterEngineering in 2014 when I realised I did not know any other LGBT+ engineers! A spotlight existed on gender and ethnicity, but there was nothing on sexual orientation and gender identity; they are harder to see by virtue of the fact that they are hidden identities. In response to this, I co-founded InterEngineering, and our success has far surpassed anything I originally expected.
InterEngineering connects, informs and empowers LGBT+ engineers and supporters to foster greater inclusion in engineering. Our vision is to be the leading LGBT+ organisation catalysing change and fostering greater inclusion in engineering by working with engineering companies, institutes, government and the future talent pipeline.
I became an engineer because I was curious about how things work. I recall trying to understand how images got to our TV screen from a TV aerial and how radios work as a child. As my Dad is an engineer, it seemed an obvious choice to consider a career in engineering. Yet, choosing a career was difficult because my mum thought architecture would be more suitable. In the end, I chose to study electronics engineering because I could see myself enjoying it long term.
I now work as a telecommunications engineer within WSP, a world-leading engineering design and professional services company. I design systems and networks using SMART technology within the transportation environment. My designs apply digital systems and wireless technology to provide real time information on various modes of transport to customers. Using SMART technology ensures that information can adapt automatically to help commuters make better informed choices, safer and seamless travel from location to their destination. Some of my design projects include Crossrail, the Blackwall tunnel and Edinburgh Gateway station. As well as making a difference in what future technologies can meet customer’s transport needs, my work also contributes to saving lives. I am responsible for designing networks for end-users, including the fire, ambulance and police services and members of the public.
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.
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.
Taps and toilets have the ability to change lives in the developing world. As an engineer, I have spent the majority of my career to date working in countries across Africa and Asia developing sustainable solutions to one of the world’s biggest crises. One in three people lack access to a toilet, while a tenth of the world has no access to safe water. Together, this leads to the deaths of around 900 under-fives every day.
There is no such thing as a ‘sustainable’ technology in engineering. Instead, the sustainability or appropriateness of technology depends on its fitness for purpose in a local context, as well a suitable introduction process.
SafetyNet Technologies’ primary goal is to design and build devices that increase the selectivity of commercial fishing practices. By being more selective with the fish caught, the industry becomes more sustainable. Light, which has been of interest to the fishing gear technology community since the 1970s, can be used as a tool to achieve this.
SafetyNet Technologies builds sophisticated LED systems that enables experimentation into how light can segregate between ages and species of fish. We then apply this knowledge to create simple sets of lights that help commercial crews catch the right fish.
To celebrate International Women’s Day, Plumstead Manor School in Greenwich invited over 200 students from the area to join them in their celebrations. The event was organized by two sixth form students, Noor Ali and Janraj Khunkhun, and saw students aged from as young as 9 getting involved. Over the course of the day, the students had the chance to interact in workshops and hear from an array of speakers, showcasing the contribution of women in society and the roles that both men and women play to help create gender parity.
Speakers included Cllr Denise Hyland, a local councilor of the Borough of Greenwich and the first ever female leader of the borough; Pamela Oparaocha, station manager at Hornsey Fire Station and the only black woman to hold this role nationally; Elisha Foust, a founding member of the Women’s Equality Party; Matthew Pennycook, Member of Parliament for Greenwich and Woolwich; and QEPrize Ambassador Jaz Rabadia MBE, senior manager of energy at Starbucks.