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Michael Wood has been a Whitworth Scholar twice as long as Rikki Jones has been alive.
Wood was awarded his Whitworth medal not long after the Second World War. Jones received his 63 years later, in 2016. The two men represent the depth and range of the Whitworth network, which both scholars consider to be incredibly valuable.
Wood is retired now, but spent most of his 90 years teaching at Cambridge University. He jokes that he only "gave up" because the undergraduate students became "far too clever". As a past president of the Whitworth Society, he believes the scholarship is special. "The programme combines practical experience in workshops with intellectual education in engineering," Wood says. "It's the combination of the two, which makes for really good engineers."
Jones is the kind of engineer Wood has in mind. Having started out as an apprentice, Jones is now a principle engineer at Babcock, a global company with 35,000 employees. The 30-year-old says he pursued his degree and the Whitworth Scholarship because of a hunger to know more about his industry. "The greatest thing is the network of great engineers, right across the industry, that I now have access to," says Jones. "We all share common interests and are all very passionate about what we do. There is always someone you can speak to."
To illustrate the power of the Whitworth network, Howard Stone likes to tell the Albuquerque story.
It begins in 1999, the year Stone embarked on his Whitworth Scholarship journey. He was at an industry event in London when he met a man named Alan Ross, who had just received his Whitworth medal. The pair spoke for 10 or 15 minutes.
Six years later, Stone secured some work in New Mexico, America. "I worked in Albuquerque for a year and a half and, would you believe, there's a scholar who lived in Albuquerque. I emailed him out of the blue, said: "I'm coming over, are you free to meet me?" I went out there, Alan and his wife took me around, my family moved out there with me and every Saturday we all went out for breakfast on old Route 66". Stone, the current president of the Whitworth Society, says the scholarship also opened a door for him to a nine-month project in Dubai. As someone who came across the programme by spotting a poster on a college wall, he could never have imagined the value it would bring to his life.
Stone says Whitworth Scholars are leading in every sphere of engineering. Some are recent graduates, others are professors or senior researchers. There are leaders of industry and business owners. The work they are involved in ranges from building giant infrastructure, like roads or bridges, to researching the resistance an embryo encounters in the fallopian tube. "We have some amazing people inside the society," Stone says proudly. Like Sir Joseph Whitworth, Stone left school early to become an apprentice. Later, he studied his way through a mechanical engineering degree, a doctorate and an MBA.
Now a business owner and consultant, he admires the ability Whitworth had to make tough decisions and find practical solutions to problems. Another story Stone enjoys telling is the one about how Whitworth (inventor of the Whitworth Rifle) managed to plot the trajectory of a rifle bullet back in the 19th century. "You don't have high speed cameras, you don't have the laser techniques we have today," Stone explains. "Being a Victorian, he built a shooting range in his back garden, put a piece of paper every 10 yards, fired the gun and then put the pieces of paper together again to measure the hole and how the trajectory of the bullet went. You can have a huge impact on how guns work all over the world just by doing one simple test."
To engineers considering applying for the Whitworth Scholarship, Stone gives the same advice he dishes out to his three young daughters. "I've been fortunate to get scholarships from multiple places because I've gone out and found them, not because they came to me," he says. "You are only limited by your own imagination."
Pav Bhogal is a 25-year-old engineer who received his Whitworth medal less than a year ago, but already, he's thinking about the next generations.
Working in the naval ships division at BAE Systems, Bhogal helps students with difficult backgrounds or those from ethnic minorities to enter engineering. Teaming up with other organisations, including schools and universities, he's helping them compile CVs, prepare for interviews and learn how to present themselves to potential employers. "One of the biggest problems is the skills gap and trying to recruit and retain enough engineers," Bhogal says. "There is a very real issue with an ageing population of engineers. In the next five to 10 years, a lot of engineers we know and love, and who do a lot of our work, will be retiring or leaving. There's a gap between that generation and the groups coming in now. So it's about being able to transfer and retain knowledge."
Bhogal says he expects to see major changes in the future, including a "huge increase" of women in engineering. Getting the Whitworth Scholarship allowed Bhogal, who works in software integration, to study smarter and buy some of the tools he needed, including a laptop. He also sees the programme as a step towards professional registration and a brilliant networking opportunity. "It's the support network behind it," he says. "You get to talk to people in different locations, working in different sectors of engineering, who have probably worked abroad. It's kind of like a mentoring network."
Bhogal thinks that while the world has changed dramatically since Sir Joseph Whitworth was alive, many of the industry's problems remain. He calls it "different but the same". Software may have replaced hardware, but core issues are still being confronted and the role of engineers is still to look to the future and find solutions. Bhogal says those considering applying for a Whitworth Scholarship should not hesitate. "One of my philosophies is to never say no," he explains. "If you're given an opportunity, always go for it. Say yes as much as you can. Get involved as much as you can. It's a great support network and it helps you develop an understanding of the industry."
On Friday, 16th March, 60 Whitworth Scholars, and honoured guests, met in the Library of the IMechE for dinner to commemorate 150 years of Whitworth Scholarships.
Scholars in attendance included the most recent 2017 Award Holders and Senior Scholars Prof. Francis Burrows Wh.F. (1953) and Dr Michael Wood Wh.S.Sch. (1953), plus former Whitworth Awards Committee Chair, Geoffrey Ward Wh.Sch. (1955).
The structure of the evening included a speech from Jon Hilton, former President of the IMechE, covering his career in engine design, Formula 1 and regenerative power systems.
Toasts were also made to the Queen, new Whitworth Award Holders and to the health of the Society, these are traditions that go back to 1923, when the Society was formed by Dr Hele-Shaw, former president of the IMechE.
Current president of the Society, Dr Howard Stone Wh.Sch. (2002), spoke about the Commemoration letter to the Prime Minister Mrs Theresa May, supporting press release and introduction of the hashtag #Whitworth150 to commemorate this special year for all Whitworth Scholars. He also reminded the dinner guests of the audio interviews and videos with eminent Scholars that can be found on the Society website. Press resources for the Commemoration letter and interviews are available on the following page.
|The February 2018 edition of Professional Engineer features an interview with the current President Howard Stone where he discusses the legacy of Sir Joseph Whitworth and the Whitworth Awards Scheme.|