Article - Issue 80, September 2019

In brief

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Student at Airbus Mars Yard

Students discovered that the rover will have a drill able to take samples up to two metres below the surface of Mars © Airbus

In May, Airbus invited students to its Mars Yard testing site as part of a series of events to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

Its Defence and Space division has been studying the geological environment of Mars and next year will launch a robotic vehicle to the planet to look for signs of life.

Students had the opportunity to see prototypes of the latest 300-kilogram Mars rover, which is named Rosalind Franklin after the DNA scientist. Students learned about the nine different experiments the Rosalind Franklin rover will use to look for life on Mars, had a go at programming a rover, and tested the model’s functionality.

In 2003, the European Space Agency launched its first mission to Mars with the Airbus-built Mars Express satellite. The Rosalind Franklin Mars rover will take nine months to reach the planet and be capable of drilling as deep as two metres. The data collected by the mission will help evaluate the risks for future human expeditions and well as assist in broader studies of Martian geochemistry and environmental science.

The rover is expected to travel several kilometres during its stay on Mars and will have to endure temperatures varying from –130°C to around 5°C.

The fluctuation can be nearly 100°C from day to night. Airbus plans to launch in July 2020, when the Earth will be aligned to reach the planet in the shortest timeframe.


In July, the Bank of England announced that the Second World War codebreaker Alan Turing will be the new face of the £50 note.

Alan Turing note

© Bank of England

Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, announced the news in Manchester. He s

Turing has been credited with originating the field of computer science and his portrait will feature on banknotes issued from 2021 onwards. He is perhaps best known for leading the team that created the Enigma code-breaking machines during the Second World War at Bletchley Park. He subsequently played a key role in the development of the first computers at the National Physical Laboratory and the University of Manchester.

aid: “As the father of computer science and artificial intelligence, as well as war hero, Alan Turing’s contributions were far ranging and path-breaking. Turing is a giant on whose shoulders so many now stand.”

The £50 note currently features the faces of the entrepreneur Matthew Boulton and James Watt. James Watt is a Scottish engineer and inventor whose improvements to the steam engine drove the Industrial Revolution. This year marks the 200th anniversary of his death and there are a series of events to mark the occasion.


In July, the Royal Academy of Engineering hosted its annual Awards Dinner to celebrate and recognise engineers who have made a remarkable contribution to the industry.

The event celebrated the 50th anniversary of the MacRobert Award, the UK’s longest running and most prestigious national prize for engineering innovation. Bombardier won the award for its innovative, resin-infused advanced composite wing (see page 28). The other three finalists were Darktrace, for its AI-powered ‘self-healing’ cybersecurity system that can both identify and neutralise cyberattacks; M Squared, whose sapphire laser produces the world’s purest light, enabling new scientific discoveries; and OrganOx for creating a device that can keep a human donor liver functioning outside the body for up to 24 hours prior to transplant.

The Rooke Medal was awarded to European Space Agency astronaut Major Tim Peake to mark his inspirational promotion of engineering and space through the Principia mission’s education programme, the largest and most successful educational campaign supporting a European astronaut mission.

Young engineers of the year

Young Engineer winners (l–r): Dr Mariia Sorokina, Dr Áine Ní Bhreasail, Dr Giorgia Longobardi, Sophie Harker and Rosie Goldrick

The RAEng Engineers Trust Young Engineer of the Year awards, established with the support of The Worshipful Company of Engineers, were presented to five women engineers. One of the winners, Rosie Goldrick, an Engineering Director at MASS, also won the Sir George Macfarlane Medal for demonstrating outstanding excellence in the early stage of her career.

The engineers behind the Shah Deniz 2 project, delivering gas from Azerbaijan to Europe direct for the first time, received the Major Project Award for their work in delivering the complex offshore, onshore and pipeline gas development project. It will help Europe satisfy its future energy demand and play a major role in the continent’s transition to a lower carbon economy by providing more than 10 billion cubic metres of gas per year.


Neo Hutiri, a 31-year-old South African electrical engineer, has won the Royal Academy of Engineering’s 2019 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation.

Neo and smart lockers

Neo Hutiri’s smart locker cuts down queues for collecting medicines

Hutiri and his team developed Pelebox, a smart locker system designed to dispense medicine to patients with chronic conditions. It is used at public healthcare facilities in South Africa, cutting down queues and easing pressure on the healthcare system.

Pelebox is a simple wall of lockers, controlled by a digital system. Healthcare workers stock the lockers with prescription refills, log the medicine on the system, and secure each locker. The patient is then given a one-time PIN to open their locker and access their medicine. It gives patients access to their medicine within 36 seconds, in contrast to the average 3.5 hours it takes in other healthcare facilities. This is significant in South Africa, where more than 4.7 million patients collect monthly treatments from public clinics.

“Pelebox will improve healthcare for everyone using and working in a severely strained public healthcare system,” said Africa Prize judge, John Lazar.

The Africa Prize, founded by the Royal Academy of Engineering, is Africa’s biggest prize dedicated to engineering innovation, with a £25,000 cash prize. Now in its sixth year, it encourages talented sub-Saharan African engineers to develop innovations that address crucial problems in their communities in a new and appropriate way.


Severn Bridge

The Severn Bridge © Ted Humble-Smith

The Academy commissioned photographer Ted Humble-Smith to create conceptual images celebrating the 50th anniversary of the MacRobert Award.

Ted Humble-Smith uses his imagination and technical expertise to produce vibrant images that push the boundaries of commercial photography. He talked to engineers involved in MacRobert Award-winning projects to picture the concepts behind the innovations. His images capture the thought process behind the breakthroughs, rather than illustrating the innovations’ technical workings.

For his image of the Severn Bridge, joint-winner of the first MacRobert Award in 1969, Ted talked to Michael Parsons FREng who worked on the project. The Severn suspension bridge was a groundbreaking idea based around the structural integrity of a plated steel box. It replaced the traditional lattice work construction of bridges, which came under scrutiny after the Tacoma Narrows suspension bridge disintegrated. Mike’s plated steel hollow box construction was aerodynamically favourable to wind forces hitting the bridge side on, splitting the airflow above and below the deck.

Cobalt light systemsCobalt Light Systems (now Agilent) © Ted Humble-Smith

The aerodynamic box structure reminded Ted of a kite with a tail, which would demonstrate both the problem and the solution that was used to design the deck. He created a steel-framed box kite, similar in design to the cross-section of the bridge, and photographed it ‘flying’ with a steel tail flapping around behind it in a similar form to the oscillation that destroyed Tacoma.

 To illustrate the 2014 winner Cobalt Light Systems (now Agilent), Ted talked to one of its inventors, Professor Pavel Matousek FREng. Cobalt developed a system that could identify liquid in a sealed container within seconds, perfect for airport security. The same technology could confirm the identity and perform batch release of pharmaceutical raw materials. It relies on a technique called Raman spectroscopy – a pattern of light is formed that is uniquely dependent on the content of the liquid, and a single substance or multiple substances can be identified. Ted made a prism out of liquid and coloured rods used to signify the lasers.






13 to 15 September 2019

Explore Bristol through talks, workshops and expert-led tours that highlight some of the Bristol’s most inspiring civil engineering.


21 and 22 September 2019

Celebrate the unique engineering heritage of the Pontcysyllte aqueduct and canal, which this year marks 10 years as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


10 to 13 October 2019

New Scientist Live returns to London’s Excel, with five zones exploring the most exciting elements of the cosmos, Earth, humans, technology and engineering.

The Royal Academy of Engineering stand will showcase the This is Engineering campaign, with engineers demonstrating how they turned their passions into engineering careers.

Ingenia readers can get a 10% discount on tickets by using the code RAE10.


18 to 26 October 2019

Norwich Science Festival returns for October half term with nine days of exhibitions, shows and hands-on activities for all ages and all levels of knowledge. The Explorium zone features free activities themed around food and health, zoology and mammals, and engineering and technology.


6 November 2019

A day dedicated to publicly celebrating the engineers and engineering shaping our everyday lives and the world around us. This year, it focuses on challenging the stereotype of engineers and showcases what 21st century engineers and engineering really look like.


Runs to February 2020

This exhibition explores the hidden depths of water engineering and the work of behind-the-scenes heroes, who fight fatbergs, flooding, and save lives through the provision of clean water and sanitation. Explore the zones within the exhibition, watch films, explore virtual reality worlds, and have a go at building civil engineering models in the activity zone with Lego and building kits.

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