Living in a material world

Hundreds of white, yellow, red and blue plastic pellets.

1 March 2016 2 minute read

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According to research highlighted in the recent Create the Future report released by the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, people believe that engineering could, and should, lead the way in building a better, more sustainable world of tomorrow. Narayana Murthy, the founder of Infosys, India, went on to say that “Since its birth 30,000 years ago with the invention of the bow and arrow, engineering has been successfully driving progress in all aspects of our lives.”Throughout this month we will be exploring one area, in particular, that has driven forward the progress of engineering, and remains prominent in every aspect of daily life: materials science.

Launching our ‘Materials’ month is a guest blog by Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, Mark Miodownik, who takes a look back at how materials have shaped the field of engineering and gives us his thoughts on the materials of the future. From the early years of shadowing his dad as he repaired their house, Mark was fascinated by the ‘stuff’ that made up his world, not only from a scientific view but in finding the endless links between art and engineering, provided by everyday objects and extraordinary materials.

It is taking this mantra of making and exploring materials that led Mark from his professorship in the Mechanical Engineering Department of UCL, to heading up the research programme at the Institute of Making. Join us later this month for the Institute of Making Open Day, marking three successful years of making and materials.

Also in March, we will be celebrating a busy week shared by British Science Week, National Apprenticeship Week and the Big Bang Fair. Throughout this week we will bring you updates from around the country, as well as highlighting how our donor companies are encouraging apprentices to take up engineering. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Instagram (@QEPrize) for updates of our materials month.

Finally, we will round off our look into materials by taking a trip (sadly metaphorically) over to Livorno, Italy, where the inaugural Robosoft Grand Challenge will be taking place the following month. The first outdoor challenge for soft robots, to be held on the 29-30 April 2016, will test the terrestrial locomotion, the dextrous manipulation and the underwater exploration of some of the best ‘soft’ robots in the world. While the thought of a host of wobbly robots jiggling around a track may sound silly, the challenge aims to inspire and drive innovations in robotic technology that free robots from the constraints of hard materials and wires. Made to be soft and flexible like biological organisms, these robots could have revolutionary impacts on fields such as prosthetics engineering and cardiovascular research, as well as helping surgeons perform complex surgeries. Visit our news site throughout the month of March to find out more.

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