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Home > News > Company News > Brightsparks selection panel h.....

Brightsparks selection panel hails class of 2017

  • Author:Ella Cai
  • Release on:2017-05-26
As part of the EW BrightSparks programme, which is organised by Electronics Weekly in partnership with RS Components, we wanted to share with you the comments of the industry experts that made up our selection panel.

The judges consisted of: Isabella Mascarenhas (IET’s Young Professionals Engagement Manager), Tony Fish (co-founder FabLab London), Paul Hide (COO, techUK), Dr Lucy Rogers (science writer and presenter), Lindsley Ruth (CEO, RS Components) and Richard Wilson (editor, Electronics Weekly).

And thank you, to one and all of them, for their time and efforts and encouragement! Here they are individually:

Richard Wilson
The EW BrightSparks programme has its first cohort of young engineers. From embedded system designers to practically minded technicians working in manufacturing and testing, the range of exceptionally skilled and highly motivated young engineers is truly impressive.

If one attribute singles out the BrightSparks from their fellow engineers it is that they take nothing for granted when it comes to developing their careers in the electronics and technology industries. They are not satisfied with the knowledge they gain at university or college; they are highly self-motivated young individuals who are always looking to develop new skills through personal projects and self-directed learning.

Among this first intake of BrightSparks a number of enterprising engineers have already started on the career path of turning their engineering aspirations into commercial businesses. Some have used crowdfunding to support a first product development.

Perhaps most encouraging is to discover how many of these professionally-qualified engineers are keen to use their own experience of university and industry placements to inspire others through voluntary activities as STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Ambassadors. And a number of the engineers are also actively developing their design ideas through Maker events.

The BrightSparks cohort also illustrates the very wide range of design skills which engineers need to acquire in today’s fast-moving industry. These skill sets, for example, include knowledge of ARM Cortex microcontrollers, C++ firmware, embedding wireless interfaces such as Bluetooth and sophisticated power management techniques.

Many also demonstrate an ability to combine theoretical knowledge with the all-important practical skills of prototype building, data analysis and communications with other team-members.

So, from digital IC design tool specialists to analogue circuit designers; from researchers familiar with software tools such as LabView to technicians building and testing prototype systems, the whole product development cycle is represented in this inaugural intake of EW BrightSparks engineers.

Lindsley Ruth – Judges Comments
Being a judge for the EW BrightSparks programme has been a real honour for me! Promoting engineering as a career to young people is something that is very close to my heart. We currently face a shortage of skilled engineers entering the industry and that worries me. This, combined with an environment where more of our lives are automated, connected and supported by electronics, is increasing the demand and requirement for engineering expertise. There is a huge opportunity for youngsters who consider engineering as a career path; an opportunity that enables them to contribute to the economy and to make people’s lives better, more efficient and more entertaining.

I don’t think engineering is viewed by school pupils as being very exciting; the impression is that it’s all maths and physics. Of course, these are essential subjects that engineers must understand but engineering is about so much more than that; it’s about problem-solving, design, creativity and the ability to think outside the box. Engineering is also about understanding the environment in which a product, device or application is going to be used and who is going to be using it.

What has impressed me most about the EW BrightSparks winners is that all of them demonstrate an entrepreneurial spirit with a clear focus on innovation and efficiency of their designs. They show the confidence to take a risk, to embrace opportunities and to push the boundaries of what they are able to achieve. These BrightSparks are taking their advanced skills and knowledge and applying them in a commercial environment.

Another thing that stood out for me is how altruistic so many of these BrightSparks winners are. As STEM ambassadors, they use their skills and knowledge and inspire other young people; they donate their time to run practical workshops from soldering to coding, and even design and develop products specifically for the purpose of teaching basic computer science and programming.

Isabella Mascarenhas
It has been an honour and a pleasure to be able to review the inspiring stories of these young engineers who are flourishing in this profession. It is refreshing and consoling indeed to know that the future of the infrastructure that underpins our world is in the hands of highly capable and passionate individuals like them.

It was of particular interest to me to see the differing routes into engineering the entrants had pursued, a range of apprentices, technicians and graduates. They are all exceptionally talented and producing great work. It’s wonderful to see how much more accessible and varied engineering is to students and young professionals now.

Clearly from the entries, the ambition to innovate and solve real world problems is a strong, motivating factor for inquisitive young minds to embrace engineering. Many of the entrants also choose to share the love of their work with children to inspire and inform them of the diversity of engineering roles. Volunteering in such a way and contributing to their profession polishes soft skills in young people and demonstrably increases their employability. It adds great value to them through networking and wider opportunities. I was heartened to see that there are so many of these entrants giving their time for the betterment of others.

Dr Lucy Rodgers
Using their ingenuity to solve problems, this group of electronic design engineers are making a difference with their work. From improving processes and saving money, to introducing new products and developing systems, electronic design is both saving and making money for companies.

It’s great to hear how such a diverse range of industries respect engineers – from antenna systems designers to food manufacturers, established companies to start-ups -all value the skills, thoughts and visions of these Bright Sparks. I am also glad to hear of the many opportunities the Bright Sparks have for learning from older generations. Some of these engineers are even starting or running their own businesses. If these engineers represent what is happening across Britain, UK manufacture and design has a healthy future.

It’s interesting to see that some Bright Sparks, such as Matt Timmons-Brown, found their love of electronics as children, while others found it later in life, such as Chelsea Black, after being unaware at school of the potential of Science, Technology, Engineering or Maths (STEM) careers – showing that it is never too early, or too late to become an engineer.

Many of these engineers, most of whom are at the start of their own careers, are taking the time to take their love of their work into schools and other outreach programs to help inspire the generation after them.

Tony Fish
I have just had the joy of reading all the entries for this years EW BrightSparks 2017 programme, run in partnership with RS Components, which celebrates the achievements of a new generation of electronic design engineers in the UK. Whilst everyone has an opinion on the status of engineering in UK plc based on their personal experience and selective evidence to support a viewpoint, without doubt for anyone reading this years entries, it is clear – Engineering is current, relevant, vibrant and a new generation of passionate electronic engineers are ready to step up.

We will all agree that the tools and components have changed from the golden days of vacuum tubes and punch cards but the skills and attitude have not. Problem solving, rapid development, iteration, fun, discovery, invention, agile, creativity, perseverance, giving back and passion are prevalent in the next generation of progressive engineers as it has always been, which is why I said it was a joy to read all the entries. The breadth and depth of different skills across almost all industry sectors are being showcased, which gives me enormous encouragement that engineering is not a lost discipline.

However, it is evident that the entries are from self-driven inspirational individuals, which means we have a great base to build from but more is needed to grow and encourage our young engineers which is the responsibility of us all. Well done.

Paul Hide
It is so encouraging to see such enthusiasm, dedication and confidence shining through this year’s entries for the EW BrightSparks awards.
What stands out for me is the passion that these young engineers display for their work and in their ability to solve problems, find creative solutions to challenges and their altruistic focus on using technology and engineering excellence with the objective of helping others lead more rewarding lives; delivering solutions that can better society.

I was particularly heartened to read about the enthusiasm they all have for STEM skills in general and how several them are giving their own time to inspire others to choose a career in engineering through evangelising about the opportunities in this sector, encouraging others to follow their path.
I sound one note of concern, only two female entrants out of 29. We need to work harder to address the severe shortage of young women choosing STEM subjects in secondary and further education; it is still seen as a male dominated industry and, collectively, we must change that mindset if we are to achieve a more representative gender balance.

We are facing an acute shortage of skills and resource in the engineering and technology sectors for the next 10, maybe 20 years. If we can bottle the dedication, passion and enthusiasm shown by these young individuals to inspire others to study STEM subjects and look to apprenticeships and engineering degrees as a rewarding, challenging and lucrative career paths then the opportunities for UK manufacturing will be brighter.