Corporal Lisah Brooking of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) worked for six months as part of the Bloodhound SSC build team building a car capable of 1,000mph – alongside a number of top motor sports and aerospace engineers, including Chief Mechanic Chris Dee, Lead Engineer Dan Johns; Lee Giles and Viv Cowley. She wrote about her time on the project for The Engineer
In recognition of her contribution, the team took the unprecedented step of commending her determined approach, strong work ethic and unwavering attention to detail. Her award states that Lisah is, “the epitome of ‘can-do attitude’… her widely employable trade skills make her stand out as a mechanical engineer with considerable potential”.
Lisah, 27, is attached to First Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment. She applied to the Army when she was aged 15, with the full support of her family, and joined at 17. She did not have an engineering or military background but showed an aptitude for hands-on work and was encouraged to join the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. She is now based at the Land Warfare Centre (LWC) in Warminster, an operation which is vital to the British Army’s ability to exercise and train armoured vehicles in the UK. The role Lisah has returned to is essential to ensure the safe and reliable operation of the centre’s vehicles.
She said that the experience at Bloodhound’s Bristol base was both challenging and rewarding: “Army training prepares you to enter different environments, use your initiative, fit in and get on with the job. I was privileged to be able to apply my Army training when I joined the Bloodhound project. Bloodhound has given me a great range of experiences – for example taking part in testing and analysis of the gearbox; fabrication; using the lathe and working on the chassis – and most importantly, I have gained loads of confidence, assuring me that Army training is on a par with the best in industry. I can take this knowledge, and a new professional network, with me into my continuing Army career.”
Major Oli Morgan REME CEng MIMechE is championing the REME’s support of Bloodhound. He is Team Leader for the Army’s involvement in the project, providing technical advice on Engineering Assurance as well as recruiting each six-month attachment of personnel.
He is enormously proud of Lisah’s contribution to the project and the recognition she received, saying: “Lisah was working with a crew of highly experienced motor mechanics. She totally impressed them with her hardworking attitude, perseverance, hunger to learn and attention to detail. She is a credit to herself and to the REME. The value of the support that the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers can offer to Bloodhound includes the speed with which personnel can learn, identify solutions and vigorously apply them; their adaptability and dedication to getting the job done; and ability to perform under pressure.”
Back in her parent unit, Lisah is looking forward to being enrolled onto the Artificer course, having completed the rigorous leadership selection on her supervisor’s course. This is an exciting opportunity to spend 18 months studying at the School of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (SEME) to gain recognised qualifications and emerge on the fast track management programme. If she is successful, she will gain an HND and emerge as a Staff Sergeant – a significant achievement for an Army corporal of her relative youth. More widely, her ambitions include professional registration, as she recognises the value of Incorporated Engineer status alongside her career development within the Army.
As Major Morgan says, she has been identified as being among, “the brightest and best, demonstrating that she can communicate well, think on her feet and lead a team.”
He added: “Lisah has the engineering mindset to apply the new skills she learned to a very high standard. Thanks to her excellent representation of the REME at Bloodhound, she has not only gained peer recognition, but she has broadened her experience and her professional network. She will be teaching those skills to her soldiers in the future, as well as furthering her own professional development, which she hopes will impact on her performance through the years.”
Lisah is proud and pleased that she rose to the challenge of joining the Bloodhound team. She said: “Before I joined Bloodhound I was a vehicle mechanic. Now I know that I am a mechanical engineer, and I am proud of that role.”
Major Morgan was among those accompanying the full-scale model of Bloodhound SSC and Bath University’s Formula Student racing car, which were both on display on 4 November at the Department for Business Innovation & Skills (BIS) in Westminster to mark the start of Tomorrow’s Engineers Week. Secretary of State, Rt Hon Dr Vince Cable MP and BIS Ministers Lord Younger, Jo Swinson MP and David Willetts MP met the teams involved in both projects during the day, and the cars attracted members of parliament and public alike. Westminster school students were enthused by learning about many of the engineering and scientific principles that Bloodhound brings to life.
The Institution also staged a ‘Bloodhound and Skills’ exhibition in the Houses of Parliament throughout the week. Over 80 MPs and Peers visited the exhibition and drove the Bloodhound simulator, including David Willetts MP, Robert Goodwill MP, Baroness Kramer, James Arbuthnot MP and Andrew Miller MP. Select Committee chairs and transport ministers were among those who participated enthusiastically in the tours, encouraging their staff to come along and find out more.
Kate Heywood of the Institution was among those manning the stand. She said: “We had really positive engagement with parliamentarians over the course of the week. The great strength of the exhibition was that it was fun, but we were calling on MPs to get their constituencies engaged in projects like Bloodhound and promoting STEM skills. As an Institution we found we broadened our reach amongst MPs: we had the mutual opportunity to engage in conversation and listen to priorities.”
Also linked to the Institution’s presence at Parliament during Tomorrow’s Engineers Week were the launch of ‘Closing the Gap’ and ‘Engineering Skills for an Industrial Strategy’ Policy Statements, on 6 November. A number of points and questions on Bloodhound, Tomorrow’s Engineers and women in STEM careers were noted in Hansard during the week.
Wing Commander Andy Green, driver of the Bloodhound car and a welcome ambassador at events around the country, gave the annual Isaac Newton Lecture for Schools at the RAF College, Cranwell, on 9 October. The lecture is jointly funded by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Institute of Engineering Technology and the Royal Aeronautical Society.
Over 400 Lincolnshire secondary school students enjoyed learning about Bloodhound from Andy’s animated explanations, and took part in a few theoretical challenges to appreciate sound waves, Newton’s laws and the ways in which Bloodhound touches on a great range of engineering fields, such as materials development and environmental issues.
Andy also talked about the fact that, at the moment, the UK is producing only about half the number of qualified engineers needed to meet the demands of the future. Many of the schools attending the lecture link in to Bloodhound’s progress on the internet; others resolved to do so in the future, joining the 5500 schools across the world that are following the challenges and developments of Bloodhound.
To find out more about Bloodhound, including the latest Cisco BHTV episodes, and a fascinating update from Richard Noble, visit http://www.bloodhoundssc.com/
Portrait of Lisah Brooking is © Crown Copyright 2013 Photographer: Corporal Si Longworth