2018 rapidly draws to a close and the 2019 QEPrize winner(s) will soon be announced on 12 February. Over the next year, we are eager to see the plethora of pioneering ideas and innovations that engineers produce to drive society forward. First, however, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on some of our favourite moments from the past year. We’ve seen innovative and exciting work underway across copious fields of engineering, learnt ways to improve diversity and inclusion (both in the sector and beyond), explored the possibilities of the future, and welcomed four new members to the QEPrize judging panel.

Meet the Judges

  • Henry Yang is an aerospace engineer based in California, currently serving as the Chancellor of the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has authored over 180 scientific articles over his career, and his current interests include developing bio-inspired materials, sensors, and actuators for aerospace, mechanical, and civil structures.
  • Jinghai Li is a chemical engineer who established the Energy-Minimization Multi-Scale (EMMS) model for gas-solid systems. Currently, he works to promote the concept of mesoscience based on the EMMS principle of compromise in competition as an interdisciplinary science.
  • Raghunath Mashelkar is a chemical engineer from India. He is currently National Research Professor, Chairman of India’s National Innovation Foundation and President of Global Research Alliance.
  • Ilya Marotta is a marine engineer who has worked on the Panama Canal for over 30 years. She led the expansion of the Panama Canal as chief engineer, which finished in 2016. Ilya has won numerous awards for her work in engineering and is an outstanding role model for women in the industry.


Create the Trophy

After thousands of entries and record engagement from over 50 countries around the world, the 10 finalists for the 2019 Create the Trophy competition have now been decided.

Given the unique scale at which the QEPrize winners impact society, the achievements should be recognised and celebrated with equally unique and innovate trophy designs. Submitting the top entries this year were Hannah Goldsmith from the UK; Clay Berg from the USA; Jack Jiang from Hong Kong; Enoo Rasmussen from Sweden; Rodosthenis Charalampous from Cyprus; Andrew Park from the USA; Elijah Haider from Germany; Harvey Williams from the UK; Jaco Botha from South Africa; and Khushi Patel from the USA.


Ambassador Workshop

The annual Ambassador Workshop held back in October brought ambassadors from numerous countries together with communications experts – Ryan Reddick, Alok Jha, and Chi Onuora – for a hands-on day learning how to apply communicative techniques to engineering communication through various available channels.

This year’s workshop focused on the art of storytelling and delved into the various ways – from prose to podcasts – of confidently conveying the story of engineering to a range of audiences.

Ambassadors then had the opportunity to apply this knowledge themselves – working in groups to plan, script, shoot, and share a podcast or video that explored topical engineering concepts.


Inspiring the next generation with HRH The Prince of Wales

Image of HRH The Prince of Wales

“I never planned to be an engineer. My school told me to study Law, and I would have followed that career path had I not encountered the Year in Industry programme. Experiencing an engineer’s career first-hand opened my eyes to the possibilities of a long-term career in engineering, and so I left law behind and studied electrical and mechanical engineering at the University of Strathclyde.

“Using both my passion for space and the design processes that I’ve learned in Atkins, I set the students a space-themed design challenge. By the 2030s, the first humans could land on Mars. When they get there, they will need infrastructure to survive and explore the red planet. The design exercise that I took the students through, covered the basics of rapid design to generate solutions for the astronauts of the future.”


Tackling the Skills Crisis Through STEM Outreach Initiatives


The Science Museum Lates

The team had a great time managing the QEPrize stall at the Science Museum’s engineering-themed Lates event on 31 October. We provided attendees with the QEPrize3D design studio app and 3D printing 3Doodler pens, allowing them to create – both physically and digitally – in 3D.

Several QEPrize ambassadors arrived to help throughout the night – greeting visitors and guiding them through the design processes.


The Future of Cryptography

Image depicting the concept of cryptography with bits and symbols arranged circularly.

“Cryptographic systems are often built on the premise that particular math problems are, computationally, very hard to solve.  Many of these problems, such as factoring certain types of large numbers, have been studied by mathematicians anywhere from decades to centuries.  In fact, mathematicians often estimate the projected security of such systems by plotting the evolution in ‘running time’ of the best-known attacks.  These predictions work well, but only in the absence of ‘major disruptions’; new algorithms or technologies significantly advance the expected running time of attacks.

“Over the last two decades the field of cryptography has seen a number of trends, including the potential to link encryption and decryption capabilities to a person’s attributes; efficiency gains in areas such as Secure Multi-Party Computation (MPC), which allows multiple parties to interact on confidential data sets; new solutions for homomorphic encryption using lattice-based cryptography (which we will explore below); and, now, the threat and promise of quantum computers pushing the field to develop post-quantum cryptographic systems.”


SpecialEffect creates unique solutions for gamers living with disabilities

Image of Tom Clarke at SpecialEffect working with a client, Tom

“People often associate engineering with mass-scale projects like infrastructure, climate change, renewable energy, and AI. However, engineering can also impact people on a more personal level.

“Our work specifically focuses on individual needs and abilities. Our Loan Library Project team, for example, works with individuals directly to customise controllers to match their physical abilities. The StarGaze Project meets the urgent needs of people in critical care settings – creating bespoke, gaze-controlled software interfaces matched to their eye-gaze abilities.”


Arcadia Spectacular – powering ahead with sustainable practice

“It has always been a challenge to reconcile giant bursts of propane gas flame with the ethos of recycling and resourcefulness that underpins Arcadia. Our giant mechanical spider is a symbol of that ethos, exploring the relationship between technology and human intent by repurposing military hardware into a celebratory environment, and our Metamorphosis show is rooted in ideas of transformation. However, we felt that the broader transformation symbolism – intrinsic to any act of energy conversion – wasn’t quite enough. As such, we began to experiment with recycled energy sources.

“The beauty of engineering, and indeed the arts, is as much about the process as the results. We live in a society that all so often sees the result without fully understanding the excitement and uncertainty of the journey. By taking audiences with us through striving layers of imperfection – all the while refining and adding new ideas until finally reaching the goal of fully sustainable, fully renewable energy – more people can understand and appreciate what engineering can be.”


Machine learning and AI – ensuring fairness in smart cities

“With the ceaseless amalgamation of various IoT innovations, engineers are creating a cyber-physical world where pervasively interconnected objects, things, and processes can potentially unlock a breadth of unprecedented opportunities. However, given the rapid pace of technological and software innovation and the comparatively slower pace of legislation, there is an inherent need for neutrality to be a fundamental component of data and its surrounding processes.

“If we create and distribute ‘smart things’ without ensuring that they’re inclusive, then at best we would inconvenience a large portion of the population. More dangerously, applying ML techniques to design services that don’t account for the full socio-cultural, economic, or political spectrums could potentially result in a more stratified and biased society. Data and services in smart cities must be neutral and objective when reporting information about the city environment. They should encompass the entire population and respect data licenses, regulation, and privacy laws, and they should be free from any ideology or influence in their conception, operation, integration, and dissemination.”