Article - Issue 30, March 2007

Engineering heritage goes online with Engineering Timelines; a UK India Education and Research initiative for Unmanned Air Vehicles; engaging the public in science and technology with sciencehorizons

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Engineering Heritage goes online

Engineering Timelines

At the end of last year, a House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Heritage sang the praises of a website called Engineering Timelines: “This is a very interesting example of how science and technology can be used to improve access to, and understanding of, our cultural heritage, as it both shows how our scientific, technological and engineering heritage can be preserved, and how we can use technology – namely IT – to enable that.”

A database of UK engineering information, the site lets users locate items or events in the history of engineering on a map of the UK. Links enable the user to make connections between different engineering achievements – by location, engineer, historical period and type.

Engineering Timelines was the inspiration of Mark Whitby FREng, who gave the project financial backing. Mark saw it as a chance to celebrate the engineering heritage that shapes the British Isles and thinks a website like this offers the exciting possibility of uncovering historical and geographical connections and coincidences.

Designed to capture the imagination of the specialist and non-specialist alike, the website is ideal for school children doing projects, a television producer in search of some context, or simply the curious who can now check out some facts. The site aims to explain what happened, where, why and how. It explains how a plane stays in the sky, about the history of the Forth Bridge and the changing shape of British lighthouses. The website is a not-for-profit company and part of the National Grid for Learning.

One of the writers, Adam Poole, says “there is a wiki element to it. In terms of internet hits, it is already the premier Englishlanguage engineering history site.”

Content ideas and sponsorship enquiries for the heritage portal are welcomed. Visit

UK India Education and Research Initiative

Bill Rammell, minister for lifelong learning and higher education, has announced the award of up to £500,000 to BAE Systems’ academic capability partner to carry out research in conjunction with leading Indian research institutions. The grant is awarded by the UK India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI), co-ordinated by the British Council. The research project aims to develop new control technologies for Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs).

This project will draw upon the research capabilities of the two countries, establishing stronger links between the research communities which will be important for future collaboration. The project is titled ’Towards Reliable and Smart Air-Vehicles,’ and aims to develop control technologies for UAVs and micro-satellites to be used in search and rescue scenarios.

The project’s conceptual layout (alongside) for a research demonstrator UAV is designed to verify fluidic thrust vectoring (rear nozzle in yellow) and pneumatic circulation control for roll (pink surfaces at the wing trailing edge). The vehicle is being developed at Cranfield University as part of the BAE SYSTEMS/EPSRC FLAVIIR integrated project in Aeronautical engineering and is scheduled to fly sometime in 2008. In this embodiment, the pneumatic air supply for the novel controls is provided by an auxiliary compressor (coloured pink) mounted in the nose via an accumulator (buff couloured tank behind the APU). The flight control system (brown), fuel tank (grey) and engine control unit are also highlighted.

As this is a research vehicle, conventional control surfaces (green) are also incorporated into the wing trailing edge as a fail-safe back-up system. Novel fluidic controls, such as those being investigated here, offer the potential to replace convential moving control surfaces, reducing weight and lifetime maintenance costs.



sciencehorizons is a year long programme of public engagement designed to get the nation talking about the science and technology of the future. Using the outputs of the government’s Horizon Scanning Centre, the sciencehorizons team have produced a discussion pack with visions of how life might be affected by advances in technology in 15-20 years time. The pack covers four topics: mind and body, home and community, work and leisure and people and planet. It contains stories, cartoons,a CD-ROM and additional web-based resources to stimulate discussion and debate.

The discussions will take place on two levels. At various centres across the UK, a series of events will be facilitated to encourage discussions between experts and members of the public. Then across the country, small groups of up to 12 people will be encouraged to use the resources to run community discussion events. The results of all of these activities will be used to inform policy, setting the direction of research and regulation of science and technology.

sciencehorizons invites all members of the public to organise a discussion, but especially encourages scientists and engineers to get involved. The interaction experts can have with the public is vital, both to inform and to help stimulate debate. It is also very important that the personal opinions of scientists and engineers, regarding the implications of technological development, are expressed in this project.

If you would like to participate in a public event, go to to find out if there’s an event happening near you. For more information about running your own event and to register for a free discussion pack, either check the website or phone on 0208 683 6602.

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