Smart Machines & Factories
School pupil’s invention helping to inspire next generation
Published:  13 December, 2017

A school pupil’s invention is to be displayed at a top science centre to help inspire the next generation of inventors, engineers and entrepreneurs.

An innovative shopping trolley designed by an 11-year-old schoolboy has been unveiled as Glasgow Science Centre’s latest exhibit. The ‘Trolley for the Elderly’ lifts and lowers at the flip of a switch, and was designed as part of the Scottish Engineering Leaders Award by Aidan McCann, a then P7 pupil at Cromarty Primary in Inverness. His inspiration for the design came from his 75-year-old, 4’11” granny, who struggled with conventional carts because of her age and height.

Aiden, saw his plans brought to life by Masters students at the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Strathclyde. The competition is delivered by the award-winning Primary Engineer, supported by Scottish Engineering, the RAF, the University of Strathclyde and Weir Group and is designed to link schools with industry to inspire pupils to think about how engineering can solve problems. The Trolley has sparked huge interest in the free competition amongst Primary and Secondary schools, with over 23,000 entries last year.

Stephen Breslin, CEO of Glasgow Science Centre, welcomed the new addition to its galleries commenting: “Scientists and engineers remain at centre of our changing world and we now find ourselves with a new set of challenges to face- climate change, food and water security, the depletion of Earth’s natural resources for example. In order to meet these challenges, we must continue to build upon and develop our science and engineering base and encourage the next generation to be innovative and play an active role in addressing them. Projects like Primary Engineer are a great example of inspiring our young people and helping them find the pleasure and relevance in STEM.”

School pupils from St Bridget’s Primary School also attended the launch. John McMahon, Class Teacher, described the impact the competition had on one particular student whose idea was highly commended: “One child who has never considered herself to be a 'leader' emerged from within the class to have real vision and talent in this field. It was surprising the reaction of the class and the transformative change in them. Not so much in what they said but more by how they changed in behaviour towards this child. She was more involved in group tasks and asked her opinion more, something that had not happened previously. Before, during play time she was never really included but now she is leading games and coming up with ideas and has become something of a whirlwind in the class.”Highlighting the importance of Primary Engineers - the organisers of the Scottish Engineering Leaders Award - as a means to promote engineering to children, Bryan Buchan, CEO of Scottish Engineering said: “We fully believe in what is being undertaken by Primary Engineer to promote the engineering and manufacturing sector as a career route. “Influencing and stimulating young minds prior to them making their subject and ultimately career choices is absolutely the right thing to do, and will hopefully ensure that this situation never arises again. The initiative also brings with it pleasing results in terms of addressing the gender imbalance in our sector. We have seen entries from girls equal those of their male counterparts, something we have been unable to achieve in the broader industry, despite countless initiatives to address the fact that no more than 10% of the professionals in our sector are women.”This year’s University of Strathclyde Team Proto announced the design they have chosen to build - the Rubbish Bin Crusher. The design was submitted by two pupils from last years competition. Heather Pinder an S3 student and Aimee Arndt a P7 pupil. You can follow the progress of Team Proto on twitter @EngProto or on their blog via

Dr Susan Scurlock, chief executive and founder of Primary Engineer, said: “The competition shows us the huge potential in young people to identify and solve problems in the world. What is wonderful is that now Aidan’s invention will go on to inspire future inventors, entrepreneurs and engineers visiting the Science Centre.”

Dr Andrew McLaren, vice Dean of the Faculty of Engineering at Strathclyde, added: “The UK is currently estimated to be short of around 20,000 graduate engineers annually which creates a significant skills gap in the sector and a challenging future. The work of Primary Engineer is exactly the type of programme to help ignite a passion for engineering in young people, and will go a long way to inspiring future generations of inventors for our sector.”

If you would like to get involved in the Leaders Award programme as a school, engineer or funder/supporter please visit: