Smart Machines & Factories
Inspiring young minds
Published:  23 March, 2018

Last year for the Primary Engineer & Secondary Engineer Leaders Award over 23,000 pupils from 335 schools interviewed engineers and answered the question ‘If you were an engineer - what would you do?’ by identifying problems and inventing solutions.

Accompanying the pupils’ inventions were letters explaining why an engineer should choose theirs to build. Their inventions ranged from the downright brilliant to the utterly hilarious, all were thoughtful and most were designed to make life better for others - isn’t that how engineers describe their work, solving problems and making life better for people and society at large?

The programme has always been about engineers inspiring children but anyone who has been involved with the Primary Engineer and Secondary Leaders Award will tell you – children are also inspiring engineers. To that effect we have invented an engineering palindrome ‘Engineers Inspiring Children Inspiring Engineers’.

This year we are expecting to have at least double the number of entries; getting an engineer to visit each and every school has proved troublesome, so we came up with a solution of our own… hosting live, online presentations delivered by a variety of engineers!

Iulia Motoc, a Roboticist Engineer from the University of Kent, became our first volunteer engineer to give a live online Leaders Award presentation to school children from across the country. At that event, almost 600 pupils from just five schools, were enthralled by Iulia’s explanation of her engineering robots and the variety of tasks they do – as gauged by the torrent of questions she was asked by the children.

The process allows numerous schools to participate, watching the slides shows, seeing the engineer deliver the talk. Our Leaders Award staff facilitate the process so that we don’t have all the children asking questions all at the same time, there is a ‘Chat’ facility that allows the teachers to type-in their pupils’ queries with the engineer then reading them out and answering them. The engineers and the audience have all thoroughly enjoyed the process and as we start to gear-up for next year we will be looking for engineers to sign-up now so if this sounds interesting drop us a note

Since that first broadcast with Iulia we have scheduled 30 further online presentations where, in total, almost 9,500 children will join in from 94 schools ranging from the tip of Scotland to the edge of Kent.

Just some of the presentations we have all enjoyed have been; John Devitry a ‘Space Engineer’ from Siemens based at Utah State University, Dawn Childs a ‘Theme Park Engineer’ for Merlin Entertainments, Victoria Howells a Flight Simulation Engineer for Thales UK and Dr Vincent Giampietro a ‘Brain Engineer’ from Kings College London. These are just some of an extraordinary group of engineers who have given their time and enthusiasm to the project.

The success of the Leaders Award has given us a slight headache - the judging of so many entries has also proved somewhat challenging, last year saw us knocking on a lot of our supporters’ doors with boxes of entries (many thanks to all who said yes!!). It is fair to say that all of those involved said it was one of the best, inspirational and funny days of their working lives. Where else would you grade the value of a vibrating toilet seat for the elderly to stop legs going numb, or the camera over a bedroom door to automatically lock when a boy’s little sister approached?

So this year we are planning to make more of the marking of entries not only to ensure all children get their certificates but also to inspire engineers with the creativity of children. We would love for you to join us to help us and be inspired in return! If you have an hour or a day we would sincerely appreciate your time, for more information on how you could be involved with our programmes please email

If you are interested in coming along and taking part in any of our Grading events, please email to register.

Engineers reading the entries is hugely inspirational to those taking part; these events will help demonstrate just how much engineers care about the engagement of young people with engineering and in this Year of Engineering, Year of the Young People and RAF 100 we hope to be able to inspire more children to aspire to becoming the engineers of tomorrow.

For further information please visit:


Dates for your diaries

• 17th & 18th April at University of Southampton

• 19th & 20th April at University of Hertfordshire

• 24th April at Glasgow Caledonian University

• 25th April at Fife College Campus Rosyth – this event will also see R.O.B. (the Roll Over Bench) being unveiled as it finds a permanent home at Fife College.

R.O.B will also be making its debut at the Scottish Parliament at Hollyrood on 28th March as part of the RAF100 celebrations, with Martin Beckford from Quaker Oats the engineer who inspired the design and Grace Finlay the pupil who invented the bench in attendance.

• 26th April at the ARFC at Inchinnan, Renfrewshire

• 8th May at University of West England, Bristol

With more dates/venues to follow.