Ahead of starting their engineering studies at university, a team of students from Oakham School in Rutland have just returned from a trip last week to the world-renowned Airbus production facility in Toulouse, birthplace of the world’s largest airliner, the A380. The students were awarded The Royal Academy of Engineering Prize at the National Science and Engineering Competition held earlier this year at the Big Bang Fair in Manchester. Their adventure to Toulouse formed part of their award, alongside a cash prize and a certificate.

Charles Crossfield, Lucy Huggins, Sam Quemby and Heather Walker were taken on a guided tour of the state-of-the-art final assembly line and rode on the A380 simulator. They also met Airbus engineers working on the airliners in order to learn more about the aerospace industry.

The team won the prize with their project ‘Detecting defects in aircraft windscreens’ which responded to the RAF’s need to identify flaws in Harrier windscreens. The existing method was subjective and time consuming so the team devised a solution that would be more cost effective and reduce human error. The final prototype was a hand-held laser scanner that could detect defects and produce data that recorded the location and size of the flaws as well as calculating the thickness of the windscreen. The whole device including the hardware and software was designed and tested by the team.

"Being taken around the Airbus facilities in Toulouse was a great privilege," says Heather Walker. "We were able to see the Airbus A380 being assembled and fully appreciate the grand scale of the aircraft as well as experiencing its flight in the cockpit of the simulator. We were also fortunate enough to meet with two engineers to talk about our project – they explained their role at Airbus and we heard first-hand about the A380’s development."

The finals of the National Science and Engineering Competition took place in March 2010 as part of the Big Bang Fair in Manchester. Teams have already been selected for next year’s competition which will once again showcase the talent and creativity of future engineers.

Philip Greenish, Chief Executive of The Royal Academy of Engineering, says: "The Academy is delighted to be the sponsor of the Engineering Disciplinary Prize for the next National Science and Engineering competition, which will take place in at the Big Bang Fair in London, 9 – 11th March 2011."

Notes for editors

  1. About The Big Bang: UK Young Scientists and Engineers Fair

    The Big Bang: UK Young Scientists and Engineers Fair will take place from 10-12 March 2011 at ICC London ExCeL and will celebrate and raise the profile of young people’s achievement in science and engineering and encourage more young people to take part in STEM initiatives with support from their parents and teachers. School groups will be invited to visit the first two days of The Big Bang, which will also be open to the public on the Saturday. Students will leave enlightened about how science and engineering feature in everything they wear, eat and do. A number of apprentice, graduate and experienced engineers and scientists will be on hand to quiz and students will have the opportunity to discover a great career. The Big Bang hosts the finals of the prestigious National Science & Engineering Competition and also kicks off National Science and Engineering Week 2011.
  2. About the National Science & Engineering Competition

    The competition is open to all 11-18 year olds across the UK who have completed a project or activity in any field of science, technology, engineering or maths. Entries can come from teams or individuals. Finalists are invited to present their project at The Big Bang. Here they'll have their own exhibition stand amongst the big household names to show-off all their hard work to journalists, prospective employers and universities – as well as the school groups and VIPs attending The Fair. It’s a great opportunity to display their talents in front of many interested and influential people. As well as the great prizes for both teams and individuals, winners of the senior individual categories are crowned the UK Young Scientist of the Year or the UK Young Engineer of the Year at the award winners’ ceremony.

    For more information please visit  www.thebigbangfair.co.uk/nsec
  3. 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

For more information please contact: Jane Sutton at The Royal Academy of Engineering

Tel. 020 7766 0636; email:  Jane Sutton