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Wednesday, 01 October 2014

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Future of technology lies with youngsters

STUDENTS were delighted to showcase their work to an influential leader of the engineering industry and be declared as “the future engineers of the UK”. NATALIE CHAPPLES reports

A LEADING figure in the world of engineering has praised the highly skilled workforce in Furness and the great work being done to inspire the next generation of engineers.

Sir John Parker, president of the Royal Academy of Engineering, was in Barrow this week as a guest of Barrow Engineering Project.

The Royal Academy of Engineering has funded BEP for the last five years to support its science, technology, engineering and maths based activities for Furness youngsters from primary to further education age.

Sir John, who has previously chaired five FTSE 100 companies, including National Grid, was in the town on Monday to see the project work of students from across BEP’s partner schools and colleges.

He was joined by Philip Greenish, chief executive of the Royal Academy of Engineering. They met John Hudson, managing director of BAE Systems Maritime – Submarines and visited Devonshire Dock Hall.

In the afternoon they were at Walney School’s Innovation Centre to meet the students and teachers from nine BEP schools and colleges.

They included Walney School’s Greenpower time trial car team, Victoria Junior School pupils who created a Goblin car, Dowdales School’s wind energy challenge team who worked with Vattenfall, and Barrow Sixth Form College students who are designing a remotely operated vehicle with BAE. Also displaying their engineering projects were Furness College, Ulverston Victoria High School, Holy Family Catholic Primary School, St Pius X Catholic Primary School and George Romney Junior School.

Tony Gill, of Cumbria STEM Centre, also ran activity workshops for the schools during the afternoon.

Sir John told the students he has been privileged to lead some of the biggest companies in the UK and the world and said: “Today I have a different privilege because I see in you the future, the future engineers of the UK. I am really excited about that because I am passionate about engineering. Every company I have run has had engineering at its heart and I am now the president of the Royal Academy of Engineering where all the country’s best engineers come together to discuss how we, engineers, can help society.”

He said engineers will be at the heart of the economy in the future.

Sir John’s background is in naval architecture. He started his career in shipbuilding as an apprentice at Harland and Wolff in Belfast.

He told the Evening Mail: “I’ve been to BAE nuclear submarine building which I have known for many years. I was a naval architect and in fact Barrow was one of my shipyards when I was in British Shipbuilders in the 70s and early 80s, so I know Barrow quite well.

“I haven’t been here for three or four years so it was great to see that the second Astute submarine has gone and number three and four are in the building hall.

“I’ve had a really good day seeing what is going on and all the advances in technology that they deploy as they go through the learning curve on these submarines.

“ There are tremendous engineering skills here, designing and building, we must not forget they are designed, engineered and built here. It’s among the most complex engineering that there is in the country, so it is wonderful to see it.

“I believe there are over 5,000 people directly employed, and then a lot more indirectly, at BAE, and there is Vattenfall and Sellafield, and many other engineering establishments.”

Sir John was delighted by the enthusiasm students show for engineering, driven by Barrow Engineering Project and its key partnership work.

He said: “The future for being a professional engineer, or technician engineer, is very critical for society. We are very short of qualified engineers.

“These young people are wonderful, they are so engaged, and I’m very excited by it. They are wonderful projects and we at the Royal Academy have been supporting them with other companies like Vattenfall and BAE, so it is very, very exciting to see the engagement of the young people. So many of them will ultimately become engineers, which is great.”

Brian Wood, co-ordinator of BEP, said: “It is a huge privilege to have someone visiting Barrow who is such a massive influence in the world of engineering, talking to and inspiring young people. He is somebody who is clearly, in spite of all his experience, someone who is still very much in love with the basics of engineering. He has shown such an interest in all the projects.

“We are delighted he is here and seeing what we have achieved over the five years of the project, which I think is substantial in terms of raising the profile of STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects.”

Barrow Sixth Form College student, Daisy Reed, said the team had enjoyed the chance to showcase their work.

Their project, funded through BEP and BAE, is designing a remotely operated vehicle which provides video analysis of submarines when in the dock.

They will make a prototype which will be tested at Newcastle University later this month.

The 16-year-old, of Dalton, who wants to study engineering at university, said: “The project has been a real test of our knowledge, we have learnt so much. It has been hard work, but fun. It’s a real life project and it will be brilliant to put this on my CV.

“I’m really pleased that all my old schools are also represented here today, as I went to Victoria Juniors and Dowdales.

“I became really interested in engineering while at Dowdales.”

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