Wasim Miah, UK Young Engineer of the Year (together with Jessica Jones), looks back on his experience of the National Science + Engineering Competition and his plans for the future.
My National Science + Engineering Competition experience all started through joining my college engineering scheme, where our task was to improve upon an existing design of a foetal contractions monitor so that it is just as accurate and cheaper to manufacture. The first competition we entered was the Engineering Education Scheme Wales (EESW). This is where we demonstrated our simple theory of using optics to measure the intensity of contractions. At this event we won the award for “Most Commercially Viable Product” and where I and Jessica realised the potential the device had. From this stage onwards a working model was created using mechanical parts bought off eBay and the electronic components were made in Jessica’s garage or at University facilities for which we had to call in favours to use.
At the Big Bang Fair Wales 2011, Jessica and I were hopeful in finding someone who could assist us financially as well as with the knowledge in taking our device further beyond a “school project”. This is where we were inundated with interest from professionals representing the automotive, aerospace, defence and medical industries. Such was the interest, we had someone “borrow” our project brief, who is yet to return it back to us! At this event we were fortunate enough to win the title of Young Engineer Wales and a CREST award, which led us to the National Finals in Birmingham.
The National Finals at The Big Bang Fair was an incredible experience, as it provided the perfect platform to demonstrate our hard work to people who really care about the future of engineering and science in the U.K. Being able to meet role models of engineering such as Kate Bellingham, Mark Champkins and previous winners of the Competition whom have enjoyed a successful career subsequently, was a real motivational experience for me and anyone at the fair.
“Lost for words”, best describes how I felt when we were awarded The Duke of York’s award, as he personally came by our stand and took a genuine interest in the project and my personal plans for the future. Winning the UK Young Engineer of the Year award was surreal; I was in disbelief at first, I even asked Jessica if this was really happening to us. As we entered the Competition with no expectation to win awards, other than maybe getting one or two contacts who would take a real interest in us as engineers and our project.
Before joining the engineering scheme I was set on a career in the finance sector. My plans have completely changed since, as engineering has become a pivotal part in my life, I aspire to get into a career in a research and development role at an internet/software company as it combines disciplines from both engineering and business. I believe that participating in events like The Big Bang Fair demonstrates to future employers and universities your practical ability which at times is difficult to show on any CV or application form.
Coming from a background with no general knowledge in engineering, as an ambassador I would like to promote engineering to people who disregard any future/career in it due to thinking it is an intense curriculum. To an extent it is ignorance as many people will not realise the inter-disciplinary skills involved in engineering that can be drawn from subjects such as Design Tech, Computing, Sciences, Maths, Graphic Design and even business studies to a certain degree.
What young people need to realise is that Engineering also needs creative people, as the simplest ideas can be the best. There is so much I have learnt in terms of mechanical and electronic engineering in the past year that otherwise I would have missed out on. It’s something that I advocate for young people to undertake as what you learn and experience is invaluable.
The IMechE (Institute of Mechanical Engineers) estimates the UK needs 31,100 new graduate engineers every year to meet industry demand, so there will always be interest in young engineers of the future. The National Science + Engineering Competition (NSEC) and Big Bang Fair will give you the perfect platform for you to kick-start your career in engineering.
My advice to future competitors and engineers is that you have to be pro-active. Do not stop at any barriers you come across; engineering is all about overcoming these and finding a solution. You will find that by conquering these barriers it gives you the sense of fulfilment and pleasure so many people have from taking part in engineering.
I cannot stress enough the importance of teamwork, effective teamwork will take you further than you could envisage, and by playing to each other’s strength success will only be a matter of time.
Remember, seize the opportunity!!!
Wasim Miah, 2012