Smart Machines & Factories
A dry seat no matter what the weather
Published:  17 March, 2017

The Roll Over Bench is an ingenious invention, which aims to provide a dry seat no matter what the weather. It is the creation of Primary 7 pupil Grace Finlay from Craigrothie Primary School in Fife.

The idea came to her whilst playing outside one day: “I was in a park and I was going to sit on a bench when I noticed it was covered in puddles of water - every bench was. That made me think. What if there was a way to have a dry seat when it has been raining?” Thinking about the problem, Grace sketched out her idea for a park bench which had a rotating seat mechanism so that the dry underside of the bench could become the top, and provide a dry space. She wrote a paragraph detailing her inspiration for the concept and pointed out the important engineering design aspects of her bench and sent it with her drawing as an entry in the Scottish Engineering Leaders Award - a competition that she had learnt about through her school’s participation in the programme.

The Leaders Award is a national competition run by Primary Engineer, a not-for-profit organisation which is dedicated to promoting careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) to the nation’s school children. The competition asks Primary and Secondary school pupils ‘If you were an engineer, what would you do?’ and challenges them to design an engineering solution to a problem or issue which they see in everyday life. It is a very popular competition with participation from schools across the country, entries from over 22,000 pupils and is supported by industry leading companies and educational establishments.

A major supporter of Primary Engineer and the yearly Scottish Engineering Leaders Award competition is the University of Strathclyde; where a group of 5th year Mechanical Engineering students (Christopher Bendall, James Dallman, Gemma Housten, Amir Saleem and William Yates) have chosen to work with the organisation and local schools for their Master’s level project. The aim of the project is to take Grace’s bench concept, develop the design and build it into a full scale functioning prototype as a method of promoting science and engineering in schools and giving an insight into the process behind designing and manufacturing a product. Using Instagram, Twitter and a regular blog, the entire project is being documented online to make it accessible to audiences of all levels across the country. The group is also encouraging interest in STEM subjects through visits to local schools where they have given presentations and run activities for the children.

With the Roll Over Bench due to be unveiled to the public at the awards ceremony for Scottish Engineering Leaders Award 2017 in Glasgow on Friday 2nd June, the students are at the stage where they have finalised their design and are ready to begin manufacture. A goal for the students was for the design of the bench to demonstrate how fascinating engineering can be and an extensive effort was made to produce a design which is interesting and aesthetically pleasing. A key design feature is that every component is on display and is completely functional. Using transparent plastic cladding to cover the seats and placing the gear mechanism in the centre allows people to see the structure of the bench and how the entire mechanism works making for an interactive and interesting design. Other features which will be visible in the final bench are joining methods that are commonly seen in traditional woodworking and carpentry, such as lap, finger and cross lap joints being utilised with steel plate in order to maximise weld area and frame stiffness. Key components are self-aligning which helps improve the speed and efficiency of the build process. Computer Aided Design and Finite Element Analysis was conducted on every aspect of the bench’s design to thoroughly test it. These computer simulations were vital for the students as various parts of the bench have intricate but load bearing features that would not have not been possible to use without the clever utilisation of these specialist softwares.

In addition to showing and explaining the construction of the Roll Over Bench through their online presence, the students are also keen for Grace, the bench’s creator, to visit the University of Strathclyde in the coming months for a personal tour around the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and to watch her bench concept become a reality. As a school pupil who has demonstrated her technical ability, this is a fantastic opportunity for her to see one of the country’s top engineering faculties, and experience what it is really like being an engineering student in Scotland. Can’t wait to show her around!’

The Leaders Award is open to schools throughout the UK. The 2017 competition closes soon with the deadline for entries being Wed 29th March. Go to

To register your school for this free competition that develops STEM, literacy and entrepreneurial skills for pupils aged 5 – 19. If you were an engineer, what would YOU do? Could you see your design turned into the real thing by the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Strathclyde next year?

The progress of the student’s project can be followed on Instagram and Twitter by following @EngProto, their regular blog is hosted at, and an introduction to the team and their individual profiles can be found at