A team of structural engineers are set to ‘spin a yarn’ at fairs across the UK, thanks to a grant scheme designed to make engineering more accessible to the public.

The Continuous Loop Project, a uniquely creative collaboration between engineers and members of the craft community, has been awarded £15,000 by the Royal Academy of Engineering’s public engagement grants scheme, Ingenious.

The group will use the money to travel to public fairs across the country, using the processes and structures used in knitting as a starting point to talk to festival-goers about structural engineering, the materials used and the importance of tension.

Continuous Loop Project’s leader, Dr Helen Featherstone, a research Fellow at the University of the West of England’s Science Communication Unit in Bristol said: “We are all delighted to be awarded this grant as it will give us the chance to get out there and tell people how important structural engineering is to everyday life.

“Knitting and engineering share a lot of common traits, from the cellular nature of structures and tensional integrity to membrane structures like those in a spider’s web. A basic and applied understanding of structural engineering is crucial for everyone as developments in the field affect the whole of society.”

This is just one of 20 creative and thought-provoking projects funded in this round of Ingenious, with the aim of making engineers better at explaining what they do and how they do it.

Other grant recipients include ‘Guerilla Science’, which showcases cutting-edge engineering to adult audiences at live music festivals; ‘I’m an Engineer – get me out of here!’, which will take engineering into schools and let pupils set the agenda for online debate; and ‘Blood on the floor’, an activity for the public to find out more about engineering and science by engaging with a crime scene investigation plot.

Ingenious is funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the 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: “As always, looking through the wide range of applications proved a hugely enjoyable experience. The 20 grant recipients this year all demonstrate that engineers are passionate about what they do and are keen to learn how to communicate that enthusiasm to the public.

“Of course, some engineers are less sure-footed in the public arena and Ingenious has been created to give them the skills and confidence they can take forward in their careers. Engineers have a duty to make their work accessible and these grants will only serve to help achieve that goal.”

As well as the 20 Ingenious grants, one Ingenious Fellowship was awarded to Dr Jeremy Wells of the University of York who will explore the understanding and perceptions of the work of ‘recording engineers’ and how engineering contributes to music technology.

To date the Ingenious programme has funded 80 projects and has helped more than 1,000 engineers develop and deliver a wide range of public engagement activities. Many recipients of Ingenious grants over the scheme’s five year history have continued to champion public engagement in their work.

Ingenious grant winners 2011 (46.96 KB) by region and nation

Notes for editors

The Royal Academy of Engineering

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

Ed Holmes on 0207 766 0655