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.
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.
Our panel of judges, chaired by Ian Blatchford, Director of the Science Museum Group, and including Dr Zoe Laughlin, Director of the Institute of Making, Roma Agrawal, a structural engineer at Interserve, and Rebeca Ramos, a designer at Heatherwick Studio, will now assess the finalists and select the winning trophy.
The top entry will be unveiled shortly on 12 February alongside the winner(s) of the 2019 Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering. We will then 3D-print the design into an iconic QEPrize trophy to be presented to the QEPrize winner(s) later in the year.
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.
Recently appointed QEPrize judge, Dr RA Mashelkar, was awarded the TWAS-Lenovo Prize on 27 November for his seminal research on smart polymer gels. He has donated his prize money to a charitable foundation helping talented children in low-income areas to achieve their true potential.
Dr Mashelkar’s work on Polymer Gels
Having returned to India in 1976 after six years lecturing in the UK, Dr Mashelkar began working to advance the country’s prowess in polymer science and engineering. He initially worked with his team to apply the properties of polymer gels to agriculture – coating seeds with jelly-looking, water-attracting polymers to increase the length of time that India’s crops have access to water.
Subsequently, Mashelkar’s team brought significant attention to the field through their discovery of ‘smart’ hydrogels. They found innovative uses for and applications of polymer gels, ranging from UV-triggered gel-based enzymes to self-repairing gels for closing wounds.
At times, it may appear to some that innovative technologies and products tend to spring up out of the blue – that John or Jane Doe woke up one morning and engineered a working product by nightfall. In rare cases, this is (more or less) the case. However, more often than not the truth is that the innovative technologies we see in the news were developed rather more meticulously – the result of continuous iterative processes that significantly transform a product from its original concept. ‘nowlight’, a renewable energy solution produced by company Deciwatt, is one such example – generating instant on-demand power independent of the weather.
Since winning the IET’s Young Woman Engineer of the Year Award 2017, I have enjoyed participating in various activities that engage young people, parents, and teachers in engineering. One of such memorable experiences is working with the ‘Women’s Library’ at Compton Verney.
Compton Verney Art Gallery & Park is a nationally-accredited art gallery run by an independent charitable trust in Warwickshire. In June 2017, in collaboration with (and partly funded by) Oxford University’s English Faculty, they opened the ‘Women’s Library’ – a restoration and re-imaging of the statement library created at Compton Verney in 1860 by Georgiana Verney, the wife of the 17th Lord Willoughby de Broke. Georgiana was a tireless campaigner for women’s reading, women’s education, and women’s suffrage.
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.
With just over a week left for this year’s Create the Trophy competition and the announcement rapidly coming up in February, hear from the newest member of the judging panel, Zoe Laughlin, about her background and her thoughts on engineering and design.
Human beings, on average, suffer from the unfortunate propensity to overlook many of the significant objects, issues, and phenomena around them – passing them by as they go about their day. There may be something groundbreaking right before you, but there’s every chance that you won’t actually notice it. This is an especially unfortunate penchant when it comes to solving global problems; the solutions may be right before us, but we often fail to them.
Take the world’s growing energy requirements as an example – with each passing year, the number of power-hungry technologies grows. With it, the need to produce more energy similarly inflates, and yet with our focus based on the technologies, we spend less time looking for sustainable solutions.