With just over a month left to submit your entries for this year’s Create the Trophy competition, we hear the inner thoughts from our expert panel of judges.
Returning this year as Chairman of the Judging Panel is Director of the Science Museum Group, Ian Blatchford. Ian was unable to join us for the interview, but is excited to see the designs that this year will bring. “With submissions accepted for the first time from a worldwide audience, competition will be fierce! I look forward to seeing entrants rise to the challenge of capturing the heart of engineering in their designs,” he said.
Completing the panel this year are structural engineer, Roma Agrawal; materials scientist and engineer, Mark Miodownik; and designer at Heatherwick Studio, Rebeca Ramos.
How would you explain your job?
Roma Agrawal: My job as a structural engineer is to make sure that buildings and bridges stand up (and stay standing up!).
Rebeca Ramos: I lead and develop the design of buildings with a team of designers and other specialists.
Mark Miodownik: I’m a researcher, I make new materials using laboratory techniques. I am also a teacher; I lecture to undergraduates. And I am a dreamer, I try to come up with new things for the world.
What does ‘engineering’ mean to you?
Roma: Engineering means using creativity to solve problems and make people’s lives better.
Rebeca: I agree with Roma, and I consider engineering as a connection between ideas and reality. Our job as designers is to apply art and creativity to daily issues, to make the everyday life more exciting and beneficial for people. Engineering creates the bridge that enables these design ideas to become a reality.
Mark: Engineering is fundamentally about trying to meet human desires and needs and dreams.
Growing up, what was your dream job?
Roma: An astronaut. Until I realised I didn’t like flying, so going in a space shuttle would have been a challenge.
Mark: I don’t know what I wanted to be. I wanted to be myself; I didn’t know who I was back then, and I think I have a better idea now.
What do you think the biggest misconception is about engineering?
Rebeca: That engineering is not a creative profession.
Roma: That it has to involve fixing boilers and washing machines!
Mark: I think the biggest misconception is that engineering is about machines. Engineering is about humans. It’s about meeting people’s needs. The washing machine is a great example of this. The engineering is about understanding that nobody really wants to wash clothes, but they do want clean clothes. How do you solve that problem? You make the machine that can do it for you.
Who do you look up to as an engineering hero?
Mark: That’s like asking what’s your favourite film, it depends on my mood! I really admire the first humanoid/ monkey person who got down out of the tree and invented fire- really worked out that you could make fire and then not only cook things and make them delicious, but use it to change rocks and make them into metals. That started everything. That was the beginning of the age of civilisation.
Roma: Emily Roebling. Emily was married to one of the engineers that designed the Brooklyn Bridge in Manhattan. When her husband was severely injured on site, she took over the project and ran it for 11 years during the 1800s. This was a time when it was believed that women were not capable of understanding engineering. She was a trailblazer.
If you could have designed any engineering masterpiece from history, what do you wish you could call your own?
Roma: I wish I could have designed the Houses of Parliament. It is such an immense structure, next to the river and designed and built at the time when we didn’t have today’s technology, which is fascinating.
Mark: I think for me; I would like to have been the person who designed the first bicycle. Bicycles are amazing objects because they’re so seemingly simple, and they’re instantly understandable to anyone. You can go around the world on those things, they’re just so efficient. And nobody has yet managed to find out, in a satisfactory way, how they can self-balance.
Do you have any thoughts or advice for young people thinking about life as an engineer?
Rebeca: Read, study, and get inspired! Learn from the example of the amazing engineers that have gone before you and have pushed the boundaries. Engineering requires dedication, but it has such a positive impact on the world.
Mark: I think you need to understand people to be an engineer. Talk to them, understand them, read, watch films and broaden your education. Once you understand people, you need to work out how to help them. Gain practical skills and build things. Don’t be frightened by how the world works. So I think you need the theory, you need the practical making skills, and you need to go to the movies!
Roma: Just go for it, don’t believe the stereotypes or people who say it’s not for you. It’s an exciting, rewarding career that anyone can pursue.
Don’t forget, there is still time download the app and send in your entries for your chance to Create the Trophy. The competition closes at noon on 04 January 2017, and the winner will be announced alongside the winner of the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering in early February.