Teams of the UK's most talented apprentices competed in an innovative design and manufacturing challenge to improve an everyday home or garden device.
Risk Less, one of two teams from Aston Martin, designed the Home Automation Challenge's winning product - an automatic baby gate. The winners were awarded a certificate and a £2,000 cheque.
Held at the NEC Birmingham, the electrifying event was organised by the Institution’s Manufacturing Industries Division's, Young Members Committee. Manufacturing Industries Division Chairman, Ted Wiggans, delivered the keynote speech. Ted is also the Chief Operations Officer at Xaar plc and presented the winners with their prizes.
Entry to the competition was free of charge and open to all apprentices from companies, colleges and training providers of engineering and manufacturing technologies. Teams were required to design a product, and prototype a working model.
They submitted a report – including a design specification, manufacturing instructions and user manual – in advance of the competition, which was held on 26 June. They were also required to include a business case for the mass production and sale of the product.
Judges, having examined the reports and observed the products in operation on the day, apportioned 50% of points to the report and 50% to the improved product. Judging criteria included design integrity, quality of prototype, functionality; presentation; and the teams’ depth of knowledge.
Shaun McSorley, Alex Bray and Alex Doveston were the members of the winning Aston Martin team. Shaun said: "The main feature of our baby gate was the ability to operate it without any physical interaction with the gate via the use of a no-touch sensor, perfect for when your hands are full.
"One of the main challenges was trying to complete the project alongside other significant work commitments. I was so proud to be part of the winning team. It meant that all the hard work and late nights had paid off, and it felt like we had done the company proud as well as ourselves."
Competitors included a team from PA Consulting, who also designed an automatic baby gate, which was ‘highly commended’ by the judges. Among the further competitors, Selex ES designed a pet-feeder; AMEC Foster Wheeler created a domestic waste compactor; DNV GL’s product was a motion-detecting alarm clock and Aston Martin’s additional team designed a self-draining saucepan.
Ted Wiggans commented: “The quality of all the finalist entries was extremely high and all the teams performed extremely well on the day. This was reflected in the fact that the judges had to deliberate long and hard before the winner was finally selected.”
Peter Lunt, North Wales Area Joint Vice Chair and a member of the Manufacturing Industries Division Board, led the organisation of the competition. He was joined on the judging panel by Ted Wiggans, Lydia Amarquaye, Christian Young, Philip Brocklehurst, David Wimpenny and Ian Thompson.
The benefits – to apprentices and their training providers – included the opportunity to:
- develop research and practical technical skills
- broaden participants’ professional development and key EngTech competences
- enhance project management skills
- widen manufacturing experience
- develop leadership and team-working skills
- add the project to CVs
- raise the profile of employers and teams alike
The Institution was able to inform apprentices and training providers about the benefits of membership and professional registration throughout the day.
Ruth Martin, Training Officer at Aston Martin, commented: "By offering such opportunities as the Home Automation Challenge, the Institution is providing a practical link to a professional institution which encourages apprentices to become more informed and involved in its work.
"Participation in an external challenge enables the apprentices to experience the demands and challenges of a project to a level that is not easily attainable in work-based placements.
"Making decisions, taking a leadership role and having full responsibility for seeing a project through from beginning to end are all skills, attitudes and experiences that apprentices are exposed to in the Home Automation Challenge. They are important attributes to have when the apprentices come to be placed in substantive roles."
Following the success of the inaugural event, the Challenge is being reviewed by the organisers. It is hoped that it will be expanded for 2016, and will become a fixture on the Institution’s calendar.
Find out more about the Home Automation Challenge.