A day of inspiration from engineering role models, gadgets, and robots engaged some 200 students at Biztech's Engineering Your Future event on Thursday (October 25).
The day was organised by Biztech technology forum at Milton Keynes College as a way of bringing together engineering companies with students who are likely to be the backbone of their workforce for years to come.
The day of inspirational talks, presentations, and, yes robots, heard that engineering companies across the UK face a massive skills gap in the future. It is something that Biztech is hearing time and time again from its membership.
Kindly sponsored by Routeco and Rockwell Automation, the event saw exhibits from some of the most exciting engineering companies in Milton Keynes and beyond. Routeco, ABB Robotics, and Starship Technologies brought along robots. Transport Systems Catapult described the autonomous vehicles being tested in Milton Keynes. All require engineers at the heart of what they do.
The word 'engineering' has something of an image issue. Many think of it as being oily rags and blue overalls and tinkering with engines.
Delegates heard that it is much, much more than that.
Keynote speaker Zoe Laughlin, known for her work at the Institute of Making, and BBC 2's Big Life Fix, described engineering as problem solving, and described how she had been involved in making a glove for a man whose hands were paralysed. A glove was developed that could provide the motor control, so his fingers could close and grip. There was hardly a dry eye in the house as she described how he was able to squeeze his wife's hand for the first time.
Hands were also the subject of a talk from David Jazani, from the University of Bedfordshire. He described how his team developed a prosthetic hand for a young boy. The solution is being developed into a cheap, 3D-printed hand which could be made available to people in conflict zones around the world. Instead of costing tens of thousands of pounds, it could eventually be available for a couple of hundred pounds.
Louise Mifsud, a young engineer from McLaren Applied Technologies described how engineering was open to people of all backgrounds. She works as a systems engineer, transferring technology from Formula 1 racing cars into all aspects of life.
The afternoon continued with Professor Alan Fletcher, from the Open University's Knowledge Media Institute, chairing a question and answer session from A Level students and adults who are looking to engineering. He told his young audience that they should take the opportunity to network with all of the companies present, to get their email addresses, and ask them for a job, and if they could start on Monday!
Geoff Snelson, the director of strategy and futures at Milton Keynes Council, gave students an overview of developments in the new city, including plans for a new university, before students were invited to stay and have a final look at the exhibits, and talk to the businesses present about opportunities for their future careers. Scores of students eagerly gathered round and took the opportunity to find out more from the exhibitors and speakers.
Biztech is indebted to all the organisations that helped to make Engineering Your Future happen. Sponsors Routeco and Rockwell Automation, Milton Keynes College, the University of Bedfordshire, Starship Technologies, Dynamic Imaging Analytics, Transport Systems Catapult, ABB Robotics, McLaren Applied Technologies, Louise Mifsud, Geoff Snelson, the director of strategy and future at MK Council, and Zoe Lauglin, from BBC2's Big Life Fix and the Institute of Making.