Tuesday, May 20, 2014

News: Noble endeavours to inspire new generation of engineers

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Richard Noble OBE was in Rotherham last week to discuss the inspiring Bloodhound SSC project and the critical need for Britain to start producing the engineering workforce of tomorrow.

Essentially an entrepreneur, Noble specialises in developing high risk ventures. He was speaking at the The Yorkshire International Business Convention (YIBC) as the high profile event ventured South for the first time and was hosted at The Magna Science Adventure Centre.

The Bloodhound Supersonic Car (SSC) project is a British engineering showcase that aims to break the world land speed record by achieving the supersonic speed of 1,000mph. It also aims to inspire future generations to take up careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by showcasing these subjects in the most exciting way possible.

Noble, himself a former land speed record holder, explained how the project nearly failed to get going until high level discussions with government departments led to the project evolving into a very real, very exciting school project. The Ministry of Defence wasn't attracting the country's top young engineering talent anymore and the business department recognised that Britain was facing a "lost generation" where 100,000 engineering graduates are needed a year just to maintain the status quo.

Noble said: "In the UK today our education is not good and there is almost no venture capital, our media is still predominantly negative and focusses entirely on the soft stuff, with minimal science and engineering.

"The kids in school only have football and X Factor to look up to; their virtual world of online games and cartoons is depressingly fake."

Never one to turn down a challenge, Noble and his team saw the potential of the project to change perceptions and raise aspirations. A once in a lifetime opportunity to inspire new engineers has been developed with educational resources and all of the project data available on the internet. The team are taking a full size model out into schools for that added "wow" factor.

Nearly 4,000 schools registered in the first 18 months of the project. "We now have 60 schools building rocket cars and testing them in playgrounds," Noble told the audience. "The record is 287 mph."

The project relies on sponsors and donations with some of the leading names in British engineering involved. Noble explained how the project looked dead until Rolls-Royce got involved with their engines. He said: "We were told that we'd meet some nice people and have a nice discussion and then expect a polite "no thank you" as they don't tend to get involved in risky projects like this. In the end, they said yes and we are immensely proud, as are they, to have the Rolls-Royce name on the side of the car."
Speaking in the venue that was once responsible for producing up to 18 million tonnes of steel a year, Noble paid tribute to manufacturing in the region, and local companies that have come on board as sponsors.

The University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) with Boeing in Rotherham initially supplied testing expertise and resources to the Bloodhound team, helping with spin testing of the car's carbon brake discs. The AMRC's machining-focused Process Technology Group went on to produce a number of key parts for the car, including gearbox components for the Cosworth auxiliary power unit.

The AMRC group of centres has worked on other components, including the car's rear sub-frame and the front suspension sub-assembly (pictured) - complex tasks that required the large-scale machining capabilities of the Nuclear AMRC and the specialist services of member companies.

Rotherham high-tech precision engineering sub-contractor, Newburgh is a project sponsor and has completed Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) gearbox casings for use in the car.

Bloodhound SSC is scheduled to test in South Africa next year before the record attempt in 2016.

Bloodhound SSC website
YIBC website

Images: YIBC / Bloodhound

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