Looking for your own Eureka moment? Visit the new Engineers gallery at Science Museum, carefully curated to inspire and entertain all ages. We sent an actual engineer, Dr Filipa Adzic of UCL, along to review it...
It's no secret that engineering is a profession laden with misconceptions. “Engineers are born maths geniuses”; “Engineering is not creative”; “Engineering is only for boys”... If any of these were true, the world be very different. Some of the most important engineers in history would never have dared to invent. But one thing is true — engineering can be intimidating to both adults and children. A new gallery at the Science Museum aims to change that, and show that there's an engineer in all of us.
A gallery to inspire
The Engineers gallery does exactly what it says — it's a showcase of engineers, people who've changed the world through invention and innovation. The gallery is intended to “spark moments of inspiration” and show the process of invention, from an idea to a prototype to a final design.
The exhibition is split into themed quarters:
- 'Bodies' displays inventions that have revolutionised the delivery of medical treatments.
- 'Lives' focuses on lighting, digital imaging sensors and visualisation tech.
- 'Connections' explores GPS and internet technology, including a replica of a OneWeb satellite.
- 'Creating' explains how engineers think, and how creative problem-solving drives invention.
Gallery curator, Ben Russell, says it wasn't difficult finding successful engineers to include in the gallery, especially women engineers who actively look to inspire the next generation. The gallery curation process took around 18 months and provided a unique challenge. Most galleries focus on objects, but Engineers is a mix of inspiring stories and illustrative objects.
Women in Engineering
One particular mission of the Engineers Gallery is to inspire young women to consider the profession. Historically, the field has been very male-dominated, thanks to the misconception that "it's only for the boys". Symbolically, the gallery was opened on International Women in Engineering Day, and it includes an impressive number of female inventors from all backgrounds.
A perfect example is Tanda Kabanda, a software engineer who focuses on making the online shopping experience seamless. We all know the frustration of websites crashing due to over-demand. Tanda engineers the code in clever ways to prevent this, which has a positive effect on millions of people.
Becky Shipley, meanwhile, helped millions of COVID-19 patients by being one of the leads in developing, manufacturing and distributing Venture non-invasive ‘CPAP’ breathing masks. The design was developed in just 100 hours and was adopted by teams from 105 different countries.
Robot arms and famous kettles
Among the tales of inspiration are illustrative objects, including a flow generator from Shipley's masks. One of the most impressive is a surgical robot arm developed by Uresha Patel, engineer lead at CMR Surgical. Patel's invention and profile are also in the gallery.
The gallery features male engineers as well, including George Frodsham, a biomedical engineer who invented a device that removes harmful components from blood without the use of chemicals. This device helps patients with malaria, sepsis and blood cancer.
Historic examples are included too. We've all heard of Isaac Newton’s apple tree moment of inspiration... but did you know about the legend of James Watt’s kettle? This most famous of engineers was supposedly inspired by a kettle to work on his many improvements to steam engines and steam locomotives. True or not, one of Watt's actual kettles is here in the gallery, along with verifiable triumphs of engineering such as the first digital camera, and a miniature atomic clock that allowed GPS to flourish.
The exhibition was funded by the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, which recognises great minds and innovations of our time. Winners of previous years and trophies (designed by children) are also displayed within the gallery.
The Engineers Gallery at the Science Museum promises inspiration and stories of invention, and it delivers exactly that. A real eye-opener for both children and adults. It is free to visit and will be in place for the next five years.