Engineers will have the chance to strip down engineering to its core principles as Cambridge University extends its award winning Naked Scientists radio broadcasts to engineers.

Naked Engineering is just one of 16 creative, thought-provoking and entertaining projects that have been awarded a grant from The Royal Academy of Engineering’s Ingenious public engagement scheme. These 16 funded projects will give over 380 engineers the opportunity to reach out to thousands of young people and adults.

Grant winner Dr Chris Smith, Managing Editor for the Naked Scientists, University of Cambridge said: "Naked Engineering will bring a whole new dimension to the Naked Scientists radio, podcast and online programming. By using interactive experiments to showcase key aspects of engineering, we're aiming to switch on our audience to the way engineers solve problems in the real world in a way we've not been able to do before”.

Other successful applicants include the Science Museum, where engineers will take part in a series of innovative live chat shows using a “Talkaoke”, which is a mobile, doughnut-shaped table designed to facilitate quality discussion between experts and the public. The Science Museum will be the first museum in the world to have a Talkaoke. Redbird Media will use their Ingenious award to fund a challenging and creative schools programme to raise debate between engineers and young people on engineering, disability, discrimination and accessibility.

Ingenious grants are awarded to projects that put engineers at the heart of society. Participating engineers are provided with training and experiential opportunities to develop their communication and listening skills and engage in debate with the public on some of the ethical and societal issues that engineering brings.

Professor Christopher Bishop FREng, Chair of the Ingenious funding panel and Chief Research Scientist at Microsoft Research in Cambridge said:

Ingenious is all about creative partnerships, and this year we have a wealth of inspiring activities that will bring together communication and engineering expertise to deliver an enriching experience for a wide variety of public audiences.

Engineers will be encouraged to leave their comfort zone and learn about public engagement ‘on the job’, whether it’s on a science festival stage, in front of a camera or working in a newspaper office, they will experience a completely new way of sharing their knowledge. The skills and the confidence they gain will be invaluable to their future careers.”

Grant winner Sharon Bishop, Executive Director, Cheltenham Science Festival said:

“We're thrilled to have been awarded this Ingenious grant from the Royal Academy of Engineering. It will allow us to offer a unique five-day public engagement training course, designed specifically for engineers, at The Times Cheltenham Science Festival in June. Not only will the engineers get to learn from some of the best in the business, in a course that builds upon the great success of our international FameLab training programme, but they will also have the opportunity to put their training into practice by devising and delivering activities for Festival-goers.”

Grant winner Deborah Kermode, Director of Bright Space said:

“Bright Space is delighted to receive this generous award. We plan to create meaningful exchanges between teams of people – teenagers, engineers, actors, teachers, librarians and architects, all sharing dynamic ideas about what makes a 21st Century library or theatre. Inspired by the ambitious development of the £198m new Library of Birmingham, the project will enable pupils from four Birmingham secondary schools to understand the significant role that engineering and construction can play in the regeneration of their city. With the added opportunity of pupils visiting other European cities to see how best practice in engineering and architecture effects the aspirations of different communities, so that they themselves have a critical voice to advocate for the physical way in which their city is changing.’

To date the Ingenious programme has funded 59 projects and will help over 1000 engineers, develop and deliver a wide range of public engagement activites, which in turn will reach over 100,000 young people and adults.

Summary of Ingenious Awards 2010

Bright Space: “Future Vision”

Inspired by the ambitious development of the Library of Birmingham, and the internationally acclaimed Dutch architects Mecanoo Architecten, this project will invite four Birmingham schools to work with professional engineers and architects, supported by engineering undergraduates, to help them design their own libraries and theatres of the future.

British Science Association: “Engineering Media Fellowships”

The award will provide support for two Royal Academy of Engineering Media Fellowships. The Fellowships will provide two engineers with a mentored placement in 2010 and 2011 of between 3-7 weeks with a press, broadcast or internet media host. Previous organisations have included New Scientist, the BBC and Channel 4 news.

Millennium Mathematics Project: “Constructing our lives: the mathematics of engineering”

Aimed at the general public, Plus magazine is a free online magazine plus.maths.org about the mathematical sciences. The Ingenious programme funding will help the editorial team develop a dedicated strand of material to explore the breadth of engineering disciplines and applications and their contribution to society, promoting public understanding and discussion of engineering and its social impact. To develop the content, the magazine’s team will work directly with engineers from industry and academia to create articles, interviews and podcasts.

Cheltenham Festivals: “Engaging Engineering – A new approach to public engagement training and development”

The Ingenious award will fund the development of a unique 5-day public engagement training course building on the global success of The Times Cheltenham Science Festival’s FameLab programme, but specifically designed for engineers. Exploring different aspects of public engagement from theory to demonstrations the course culminates in a ‘real-life’ experience for the engineers to take to the stage as part of the 2010 Festival programme (9-13 June).

By Design Group: “Energising Engineering”

Engineers will have the opportunity to enthuse the public about renewable energy as part of this project to engage the general public in energy engineering. Participants will have the chance to make their own energy by building solar powered cars, wind turbines and hydroelectric generators in the form of kits. The sessions hosted by professional and academic engineers will enable them to share their own experiences, knowledge and advice whilst explaining the engineering principles behind renewable energy.

Oxford Internet Institute: “Technical and Ethical issues in the Engineering of Artificial Companions”

Professor Yorick Wilks, a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute, will lead this project to promote wider discussion about the social and ethical issues surrounding the use of ‘Artificial Companions’ which could function as long-term companions for the elderly, to teaching companions for the young and travel companions for those away from home.

National Museums Scotland: “Inspire Me”

The award funding will be used to support sessions within two National Museums Scotland events : Inspire Me training and the Engineer’s Pavillion – which will provide 10 to 15 professional engineers with training in communications and engagement and opportunities to share their work with the public. The museum aims for the newly trained engineers to stay on as volunteers at the museum to help engage more people with engineering.

Redbird Media: “New Haven: Access All Areas”

This project is designed to stimulate debate about discrimination and accessibility, through the production of a challenging video-based resource on disability and integration developed by engineers working with disabled people.The project brings together engineers from leading civil engineering consultancies Kellog Brown Root and Upton McGougan, and three local authorities (Hampshire County Council; Surrey County Council and Mole Valley Council), The Freewheelers Theatre Company, the BAFTA winning Redbird Media company and a Saatchi copywriter.

Science Museum: “The right tools: equipping engineers with public engagement skills”

The Science Museum will equip ten engineers with the skills to present, discuss and write about contemporary engineering for public audiences and to give them opportunities to do so through a programme of innovative live ‘Talkaoke’ events, expert gallery commentary and online dialogue for the Museum’s new-look science news gallery, Antenna. In addition, they will gain an insight into how science and engineering are communicated within the museum context and a greater understanding of how to discuss their work with the media.

Techniquest: “Engineering our Future”

The Ingenious award will support the training of 40 engineers across Wales to deliver a series of workshops for 14 to 16 year olds delivered through Techniquest’s four outreach centres based in: Cardiff, Llanberis, Swansea and Wrexham. The engineers will each complete a 1-day training workshop in public engagement. Techniquest and the engineers will then develop an engineering public engagement programme to be delivered to school groups.

UK Astronomy Technology Centre: “Big Telescopes for Big Questions”

Big Telescopes for Big Questions will develop a team of engineers, resources and training modules to engage secondary schools with key technologies being used to design the world’s largest ground and space telescopes. This project will develop resources and approaches that exploit this hugely inspirational subject to support engineers in engaging teachers and pupils with a wide range of engineering disciplines.

UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology (SET): “Ingenious Women: Communicating a Passion for Engineering”

This project will bring together 15 early and mid-career women engineers and communication mentors, to enable them to develop their competence and confidence as communicators. Only 8 percent of engineers are women. The UK Resource Centre for Women in SET is working to raise the profile of female engineers by giving them the communication tools, especially around digital and social media, to help them reach and better connect with a range of audiences from the media to learning providers and young women.

University of Bradford: “Engineering a Sustainable Future”

Through a series of workshops focused around the design of a sustainable house, young people at schools and FE colleges throughout the UK will be able to see how engineers have the potential to solve global environmental problems. The design of the house will incorporate renewable technologies; wind power, photovoltaics, solar thermal panels, micro-hydro and heat pumps. In addition, the team will organise specific workshops for professional engineers about engaging with the public on environmental issues.

University of Cambridge: “The Naked Engineer: The science behind the solution”

Dr Chris Smith, a clinical lecturer in virology will be working with the Engineering Department at Cambridge University, as well as other academic institutions and industry, to use audience-interactive experiments broadcast on BBC Radio and also distributed online as podcasts, to showcase key aspects of engineering research and how engineers approach and solve engineering challenges.

University of Edinburgh: “Art-full Engagement: Beautiful Futures for Synthetic Biology”

Dr Alistair Elfick of Edinburgh University’s School of Engineering leads this project to explore the potential of synthetic biology. synthetic biology is a new engineering discipline in which functional devices and manufacturing processes are embedded in biological chassis. To assist in the exploration of the potential of synthetic biology, this project seeks to engage the creative and artistic communities in a bid to harness their energies to produce case studies and other creative resources, to be used as a mechanism to facilitate conversations between engineers and the public.

Young Engineers: “Meet the Public”

Practising engineers working alongside Young Engineers will engage the general public in inspiring bite-size engineering activities at local science festivals, county shows and other public events across the UK. The selected engineers will have the unique opportunity to work with experienced Young Engineers fieldworkers to adapt tried and tested school focused activities to ones which are easily accessible and engaging for the general public.

Notes for editors

  1. Prospective applicants should contact Lesley Paterson Head of Public Engagement for further information on the Ingenious scheme. Further information about the scheme can also be found at Ingenious grant
  2. Founded in 1976, The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship - comprising the UK's most eminent engineers - provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain's engineering community.

For more information please contact

Jane Sutton at The Royal Academy of Engineering
Tel. 020 7766 0636; email: Jane Sutton