“Our ‘Engineering Adventure’ means exactly that – it’s a journey into the unknown for all of us.”
We like this expression by Wing Commander Andy Green, the current world land-speed record holder, as part of his diary for BBC News about his experiences working on the Bloodhound Supersonic Car project and the team’s efforts to inspire national interest in science and engineering.
The expression has many nuances. In particular, the term ‘Engineering Adventure’ sums up the Bloodhound project perfectly. If you follow the project there is no doubt that much of what they are doing is a journey into the unknown. The project creators are truly adventurers in that every component will be experiencing performance factors for the first time. We like the way Andy Green postulates, “The car will also be accelerating and decelerating at high g, so the wheels are likely to experience a lot of “slip” as they struggle to keep up, generating yet more friction. The bottom line is that we don’t know exactly how hot the wheel rims will get, so it’s another on the long list of things that we will have to measure when we start testing.”
On a wet and cold Monday morning it’s difficult to look at our own Engineering Groups efforts as an “adventure”. Indeed much of what most businesses get up to can be spectacularly mundane and repetitive. Sometimes, of course, this is essential and in our case, replicating high quality and standards is exactly what our clients want. To engage them into the “adventure” we may have taken to reach that point may be a conversation too far and we would concede that much of our own engineering journey is unseen by everyone but ourselves.
The people at our own Industrial Automation have a reputation for innovation and sometimes experimentation. Every client set challenge can be met with 2 or 3 solutions which may need to be tested before the suitable one come to the fore. In some cases, even when the solution is produced as a fully-fledged prototype machine, aspects of the unknown, as with Bloodhound, will set their own challenges. In which case, unnoticed by our clients would be the group of our engineers including, as last week, by our own Dr Martyn Paradise, screwdriver in hand, standing over a machine in deep concentration and obvious experimentation in the hours after everyone else had left for the day.
One evening in particular he looked a little grumpy that something obviously wasn’t doing what it was supposed to although, happily, I noticed that he and his team appeared a little more cheerful the following evening as I left for the day!
The Engineering Adventure for kids can be very inspirational. The Museum of Science on Boston US has formed a curriculum for young children through their Engineering is Elementary scheme. Fittingly called “engineering adventures” it looks to follow characters India and Jacob around the world and solve real-life problems through the engineering design process. The stories encourage engagement in experiments and extracurricular activities where the thrust of the message is that “Engineering is everywhere” and that problems can be solved using the engineering design process, creativity, and collaboration. It suggests it empowers young people “to problem solve, think creatively, and learn from one another.”
Is engineering really everywhere however? An answer could be explained by listing the Engineering fields covered by the EiE curriculum. These are:
As you can see, the EiE people believe engineering covers almost every facet of our lives and it’s hard to disagree. The relationship with the sciences is tangible and the obvious challenge for educators is to re-brand the word engineering, steering it carefully away from the understandable bridge building and gears as archetypal examples of what most people envisage the word engineering to represent.
On the 10th September, Richard Noble OBE, the leader of The BLOODHOUND Project which as they say “is a global Engineering Adventure, using a 1000 mph World Land Speed Record attempt to inspire the next generation about science, technology, engineering and mathematics.” came to give us an inspirational talk. We were delighted to welcome him on the day of our centenary party, and we also welcomed the Bloodhound Educational Team who are used the day to inspire some students from Derby College who were invited to our factory to take part in the days workshops and events. Hopefully this will be the start of their own “Engineering Adventure” and perhaps, the TEW Group will have had their own small part to play in it.
29 September 2014 by Jenny Jones