"I agree with Samuel Wright in his letter “Don’t drive kids away,” referring to competitions being used to encourage youngsters into engineering (Your Voice, Professional Engineering No 1, 2019). However, my objections are more fundamental.
These activities are about science, not engineering. They are quoted as “An introduction to physics, materials science and fluid dynamics”. Is there something wrong with activities involving engineering products and systems or are these considered intellectually below science subjects, or thought of as boring?
In my experience, manufacturers will always help with real demonstrator equipment, and then it is up to organisers to build an interesting story around the display. The youngsters must be engaged, not as competitors, but as engineers trying to solve a problem, as so often is the case in real life.
By all means present the problem of handling eggs, but have on display a small working section of equipment actually used for this. Show how small changes in design can make big differences in manufacture and machine behaviour, and ask the youngsters to select what they think will work. This will create a queue around the hall – and a nice sideline in omelettes!
Projects like this need a lot more planning than buying eggs and straws, but, if we are going to attract young people to engineering, we must offer them insights into reality, not game-playing. They can get that on their phones."
Peter Mucci, Southampton
Tide on the turn
"The article “Swimming against the tide” states that tidal power can’t compete with wind power in terms of cost unless it obtains government assistance to presumably scale up the technology (Professional Engineering No 1, 2019).
Tidal power is more predictable than wind or solar and hence could be treated as baseload power, offsetting the need for expensive peak lopping power when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun is obscured by clouds. Hence it shouldn’t be required to compete with the low costs bid by large wind-turbine operators in the recent round of ‘contracts for difference’ bids.
Tidal power doesn’t suffer from significant public opposition and, coupled with substituting for expensive peak lopping power, you would hope that the tidal power operators were pushing against an open door in terms of being given supply contracts.
The £10m Saltire Prize for demonstrating a commercially viable wave or tidal energy technology has been relaunched with more attainable criteria, hence there may be government money going to tidal power shortly."
George Horne, Aberdeen
Back to basics
"Bob Adams’ proposal on education reform makes sense to me (Your Voice, Professional Engineering No 8, 2018).
I joined Dowty Group in 1963 as a student apprentice, after A-levels and before embarking on a mechanical engineering degree at Bristol University in 1964. My year in industry provided an invaluable grounding in many aspects of engineering, including design, manufacturing and inspection.
The apprenticeship also offered vacation work. A year of independence prior to university benefited my personal development and maturity. Having already taken my A-levels I was in a strong position when it came to university applications. I see this as a further benefit of Bob’s proposal.
Dowty provided a day-release programme studying HNC modules, supplemented by two evening classes. These were invaluable in maintaining a study ethic, and providing a head start on subjects I would study at Bristol. I commend this as a model to follow.
I agree that a properly structured three-year degree course should provide the academic essentials for a graduate to embark on his or her career and note the financial benefits identified.
If the proposal is pursued it would require a rethink of professional registration, since IEng is linked to the three-year bachelors degree and CEng to the four-year MEng, or equivalents; I think such a review would be no bad thing."
John Hammill, Dursley
Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.