EDA helps young people engineer the future for themselves and others

The University of Kent is helping to encourage future generations of engineers through a number of schemes, events and initiatives involving young people.
At the forefront of this ambition is Kent’s School of Engineering and Digital Arts (EDA), one of the most respected and successful of its kind in the UK. Within the past two months alone, representatives from EDA have organised, attended or run events such as the national Big Bang Fair – the UK’s largest celebration of Science, Engineering and Maths for young people – and more locally a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) careers fair at Canterbury’s Simon Langton School for Girls.
For the Big Bang Fair, a team of staff and students from EDA demonstrated to more than 1500 young people how everyday gadgets and technology are engineered to utilise the science of the electromagnetic spectrum. The activity was about participation and the use of physical science to achieve real goals – in this case cooperating to solve puzzles and defeat a fictional James Bond style villain.
The Simon Langton careers fair allowed representatives from EDA to demonstrate a variety of ways that engineering can be part of everyday life. Displays of ‘button antennas’, which look like a normal denim jacket button but which are actually triple-band antennas for use in body-worn electronics, were shown, as well as the ways in which embedded computer chips can add intelligence to products. For example, an electric kettle that will not turn on if someone has forgotten to add water to it, or a security system that will allow only people it recognises to enter a building.
Dr John Batchelor, Reader in Antenna Technology at EDA, said: ‘It’s important that school pupils experience and understand engineering. Many people don’t know what engineering means, but it completely underpins the modern world. Quite often young people are surprised by just how much the discipline contributes to the technology they take for granted. For instance, our button antenna body-worn work shown at Simon Langton Girls’ School has since led to the world’s first wireless transfer tattoo device which was invented at Kent. Current research is making these tags with inkjet printers.
‘It is also important for society that we encourage and develop future generations of engineers and scientists as these are highly skilled and essential professions. It’s vital that young people find out about engineering and what it can offer them in the future.’
Professor Sarah Spurgeon, Head of EDA, added: ‘We are happy to support STEM events such as these because they encourage young women particularly into engineering, providing them with rewarding careers and helping the UK by increasing the talent pool.