“People just love engineering,” says Richard Noble OBE, one-time holder of the land speed record and Director of the world’s first 1000mph land speed record attempt, The BLOODHOUND Project: “They love the challenge, they love the excitement. The difficulty is, they’re just not given enough of it.”
We caught up with Richard to learn more about BLOODHOUND, its involvement with over 7,000 schools around the UK, and to get his thoughts on UTCs.
Could you tell us how BLOODHOUND first came about?
“During the 50s and 60s, Britain had an incredibly innovative aerospace industry, creating fighters that went twice the speed of sound, Concord and so on. These acted as an enormous inspiration to the young, but once this was over there was no real engineering excitement going on.
“We discovered that during the US Apollo Space Programme, almost the entire country got mobilised into STEM subjects. It was absolutely incredible—a 300% increase. By coupling BLOODHOUND (including data from the car) with the Internet, we realised people could study it and understand it, and that perhaps we could inspire young people in a similar way. The data will be around forever, which means people can study BLOODHOUND forever. This will have an enormous educational influence.”
BLOODHOUND is involved with schools across the country, but you have a special relationship with UTCs. How did that come about?
“We realised linking with UTCs was a really sensible thing to do because these schools have a much closer relationship with the local business community. They can produce an educational product which is much more suitable for the local industries. This is a terrific innovation. We’ve now got our office here on the first floor at UTC Oxfordshire. We’re integrated with the UTC, we see all the kids coming in and out. It’s absolutely splendid!”
A recent financial setback has delayed the BLOODHOUND record attempt. What impact has this had on the project educationally?
“We’re dependent on sponsorship and public donations, so money’s always tight. We’ve had to slow the project over 5 or 6 months, which has been a real shame. But what’s happening is we’re absolutely run off our feet.
“It takes time for people to really understand the project’s potential and the delay gives us more time to reach schools and young people. It’s coming together big time, which is really very exciting. Our rocket car programme (where school children can build and race their own rocket-powered model cars) has become absolutely enormous.”
Do you think there’s a long-term future for engineering jobs in the UK?
“A fundamental problem in this country is that we’re not trading profitably. We’re importing more than we’re exporting by around £35 billion. The only way to straighten this out is to get back to manufacturing very high technology products. For this, we’ve got to have engineers. UTCs are absolutely crucial for these skills.
“The educational world has forgotten that what is needed is inspiration—simply learning the answers is just not good enough. BLOODHOUND is trying to provide that inspiration and we’re working with the UTCs. Together, we’ll do it!”
What would you say to encourage young girls into the engineering profession?
“The message to girls is: we need you—big time. Only about 10% of professional engineers are women, which is just a disgrace. What we’re finding with the rocket car competition is that girls are winning hand over fist, time and again, principally because their communication and team-working skills are excellent.
“We’ve got an awful lot of prejudice to overcome, but in so many cases we’re seeing girls discovering how exciting and creative engineering is. One girl made it through UTC and now works as a mechanical engineer at Rolls Royce. It’s fantastic what can be achieved here.”
Finally, why should people #ThinkUTC?
“#ThinkUTC because the schools represent fresh thinking and education, excellent contact with local employers and tremendous opportunities for kids.”
Keep up with the BLOODHOUND Project on Twitter: @BLOODHOUND_SSC
Or follow Richard Noble: @richardnoblessc