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The engineer who challenged herself to get better

Institution News Team

Abigail Carson
Abigail Carson

Abigail Carson turbocharged her career through the Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ challenges and competitions, and now she is working on a global patent that could change the world.

Since she was a little girl, Abigail Carson has always wanted to be an engineer. Now working for Ricardo Rail as an engineering consultant, she gets to realise that dream every day.

“I have always loved engineering,” she says. “I enjoy coming up with a solution to a problem that impresses someone or can make their life easier, it is very satisfying.”

To help develop her skills, Abigail has worked closely with the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, taking part in a number of challenges supported by the Institution.

The first of these was the Formula Student (FS) competition, which she has been involved with for the last three years while studying engineering at Lancaster University. After volunteering for the first two years, she finally joined the team in her final year.

Teams from around the world competed to create, design, build, test, and race a small-scale formula style racing car, with the teams judged on a number of criteria such as engineering design, safety, acceleration, endurance and fuel economy.

“It was great to be able to take the project from day one to the track. It is a challenging competition, but the hardest part was the people side of things,” Abigail says. “You have to make sure everyone is ok at the same time as making sure they are doing the work required of them.”

“Making them want to do that work can be the hardest part at times,” she adds.
And the skills Abigail learnt through taking part in the challenge were integral to her success in landing a job with Ricardo Rail after graduating from university.

“The challenge helped me demonstrate that I could take the theory and knowledge I learnt at university and apply it on the track,” she says. “It is much easier to be able to show that experience when you have examples of practical application of that knowledge instead of just writing it down on a CV.”

Abigail was also a member of the Ricardo Rail team that won this year’s Railway Challenge, joining other new graduates from the company to compete at the event. The team had to design and manufacture a miniature 10¼” gauge railway locomotive, which was then set against the competition in a number of tests set across a weekend in June at Stapleford Miniature Railway in Leicestershire.

“It was a really enjoyable challenge, and had a lot more focus on the safety implications of the rail industry compared to the Formula Student competition.” She said.

Changing the World

Ultimately, however, Abigail’s greatest achievement to date was realised while at university completing her final year project, designing a flywheel that can store energy more efficiently than previous versions of the technology.

She is now working on securing a worldwide patent for the design, and believes it has far-reaching implications for the engineering industry and wider society.

“The design is 15 times more energy dense than anything available to us at the moment,” she says. “The design can be applied to anything that conserves energy, whether that's for domestic use, in transport, or even things like pumping water to isolated areas.

“We are working on prototypes and commercialisation at the moment, and then the end goal is for everyone else to benefit from the technology.”

From talking to her, it is clear to see that Abigail is passionate about her work and the engineering industry more widely, and she encourages anyone with a love of problem solving to look into a career as an engineer, whichever field that may be.

“Read the tech magazines and the IMechE news stories,” she advises. “You might just see something that opens up a whole new sector for you that you hadn’t even heard of before.

“Try and get as much exposure as you can to all areas of engineering and technology, you never know what you might find.”

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