Dominic Lenton, managing editor at Engineering & Technology magazine, chose PA Consulting’s annual Raspberry Pi competition as his favourite story of 2018.
One of the most enjoyable events I was lucky enough to be involved in this year was when I was invited to act as a judge at the finals of PA Consulting’s annual Raspberry Pi challenge for schools and colleges, which was held at the IET’s London headquarters in Savoy Place. To be honest, I’m a tiny conflicted about initiatives like this, which aim to get young people thinking about careers in engineering and technology by tackling the widely held misconception that they’re all about spanners and oily rags. With one of my own children having decided on their own initiative to embark on an engineering degree, I can’t help being reassured by all the headlines about skills shortages and how they’re reflected in job opportunities and higher than average graduate salaries. The debate about tuition fees and loans looks set to rage on, but for those who’ve already made the choice, a four-year MEng course means coming out with a hefty debt they’ll probably be paying back for the next 30 years.
I couldn’t help being optimistic about the prospects for UK industry, though, having witnessed the sheer enthusiasm and ingenuity on display at this particular competition. Part of the judging process involved quizzing the teams behind environmental applications of the Raspberry Pi mini computer that included an interactive recycling bin, streetlights that turn off when they’re not needed and a portable charger to harvest solar and wind energy. What was particularly heartening was how these inventions weren’t just there to show how clever the Pi is; there was some serious thought put into addressing a real problem and how it could be solved.
I’m looking forward to seeing what the entrants in this year’s competition come up with, and hope that more and more schools and colleges will be getting on board. The theme this time round is transport and details have been recently announced. I’ve noticed talking to younger people recently about how we might reduce our reliance on car ownership that – probably because they have to rely on alternatives like public transport – they’re much less wedded to the idea that every household needs at least one vehicle, if not two or three, simply because it’s the most convenient way of getting around. A generation that’s got used to being able to summon an Uber on their phone and aren’t even bothered whether or not it has a human driver will be the one that ushers in a new way of thinking about personal mobility.
Whatever you’re doing over Christmas and the New Year, maybe take a little time to think about how you could manage it without jumping in a car that spends most of its time sitting outside your home. I’m confident that teams entering PA Consulting’s Raspberry Pi challenge will have come up with some interesting ideas – watch this space to find out what they are later in 2019.