Coming in with a bang

Posted on 11 Mar 2011 by The Manufacturer

Blogging live from the Big Bang Show at ICC London Excel TM's Jane Gray reports on the making of the next generation of engineers

The Excel exhibition centre in London is alive and buzzing today with school children of all ages reveling in their own excitement and the enthusiasm of seasoned industry experts.

Many of industry’s biggest names are here including BAE Systems, Siemens, JCB, Boeing, Thales and many more. The exhibition hall is busy with informal activities on the show stands. There is ample opportunity for visiting children to get their hands mucky – a great demonstration area in the Your Body zone, dedicated to the healthcare and pharmaceuticals industry, of the properties of Newtonian liquids – as well as demonstrations which show that engineering and manufacturing don’t needs to get you messy or break your nails! The demonstration of ultrasound technology on the Siemens stand for example is attracting hordes of young people eager to have a go at scanning an alarming looking jelly baby in a space aged pod – and while they cringe and explore the technology careers advisors and applications experts are on hand to help.

The role of technology in our modern professional and private lives is pervasive at the show today. Miles Pixeley, representing JCB at their stands says that the demonstration of the 3D visualisation technology they use, both in commercial activity and at the pioneering JCB Academy is proving a real winner with children and he adds that the company is targeting electrical skills growth at the shows, promoting its forthcoming undergraduate sponsorship programme which will foster electrical engineering and design talent. The scheme is due to begin this summer.

In addition to the exhibition stands more formal presentations and workshops are constantly on the go and each is full of school groups. I have just come out of a fascinating presentation from BAE Systems on ‘The secret life of robots’. This demonstrated the capability – and limitations of robot technology used by BAE in collaboration with the RAF. The presenters are striking an excellent balance with their audience, both exciting them with available technology but also showing where the next avenues of innovation are likely to lead, avenues in which the young people here today will have the opportunity to play a role.

It’s not all hands on science though – I am currently sitting in a musical theatre experiment tracking evolution through the medium of music which is finishing up now with a lesson to attendees about the responsibility we have to safeguard the natural world and its complex balance of ecosystems.

Today’s Big Bang show will finish up with the announcement of the 2010 UK Engineering and Science competition and the launch of the 2011 competition. More on that later.