The UK government has dubbed 2018 the ‘Year of Engineering’. And as the year gallops into its final five months, innovation in Africa is a hot topic too. South Africa and Zimbabwe have both seen new presidents thrust into power, which may have also stimulated changes.
There also seems to be a renewed appetite for innovation in education and training - part of the blossoming global economy.
The UK government attended the Royal Academy of Engineering Workshop - hosted at Zimbabwe’s NUST University. They were represented by Catarina Laing from the University of Strathclyde in Scotland.
In 2015, the UK government set up the Global Challenges Research Fund. The £1.5 billion fund has been working to support cutting-edge research that addresses the challenges faced by developing countries.
They're particularly concerned about the number of people studying engineering in the UK - more specifically the fact that fewer girls are interested in studying engineering. Laing said:
“Engineering success is absolutely vital to the future of the UK, Zimbabwe and indeed all countries. We’ve seen how in the UK what a massive contribution engineering and engineering research makes to the UK economy and to the lives of UK citizens. Back in 2015 it was reported that engineering-related sectors have contributed around 280 billion pounds to the UK’s Gross Value Added in 2011 - about 20 percent of the total.”
Zimbabwe’s engineers and the engineering industry are well placed to help revitalize their economy and bring them out of the historical hyperinflation they have seen in the last few decades. However, with political tensions still present in the country, uncertainty reigns.
LEGO lends a helping hand
Another hot topic is the renewed push to prevent attrition rates in science and mathematics in schools. The United Kingdom, for example, continues to push for overhauling education and training in engineering. In this environment LEGO is reminding the world that the development of affection for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) starts with LEGO.
LEGO are now supporting the ‘Year of Engineering’ national campaign and will be travelling around the UK, visiting primary schools and inspiring the UK’s future engineers. The UK government said they see a shortage of 20,000 engineering professionals per year. On top of that, only 12% of engineers in the UK are female.
Therefore, LEGO will be running the ‘The Engineers of the Future’ roadshow. They will be giving children hands-on experience with new technologies and the opportunity to hear already prominent engineers speak about their careers.
Minister for the Year of Engineering, Nusrat Ghani said:
“Engineers are at the forefront of technology and infrastructure advances which are shaping all of our lives, from how we communicate and travel to tackling major challenges in healthcare and the environment. But the opportunities of this creative, innovative and hugely important profession are all too often misunderstood and overlooked by young people and their parents.”
The students will take part in challenge called the FIRST LEGO League. The challenge will see students trying to make sense of and solve some complex engineering problems.
Camilla Bottke, Head of LEGO Education After School and Competition said:
“For more than 35 years it has been our mission to inspire and develop all children, equipping them with the right skills to empower them to succeed, whatever their background and whatever the ambition. Our experience shows us the importance of supporting development of STEM skills in children from an early age. We are delighted to be part of the UK government’s ‘Year of Engineering’ initiative to further our commitment to developing these important STEM skills in children across the country and leveraging technology to give children the opportunity to become aspiring engineers.”
Commonwealth Office. “Engineering Success Vital to Zimbabwe's Future: UK Ambassador.” GOV.UK, GOV.UK, 18 June 2018, www.gov.uk/government/speeches/engineering-success-vital-to-zimbabwes-future-uk-ambassador.
“LEGO® Teams up with Year of Engineering Campaign to Inspire and Develop the Engineers of the Future.” GOV.UK, GOV.UK, www.gov.uk/government/news/lego-teams-up-with-year-of-engineering-campaign-to-inspire-and-develop-the-engineers-of-the-future.