Strathclyde team brings young engineer's invention to life

Team Rob complete the prototype

A budding engineer from Fife has seen her rotating bench concept come to life with the help of a team of mechanical engineers from the University of Strathclyde.

Eleven-year-old Grace Finlay invented the ‘Roll Over Bench’ or ‘ROB’, as part of the 2016 Primary Engineer’s Scottish Engineering Leader Award competition designed to engage school children with STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths) subjects. ROB looks like a conventional bench, but can be fully rotated to present a fresh side to sit on, providing a dry seat at the park, whatever the weather.

The public can see the completed prototype, alongside 450 pupils’ invention illustrations submitted as part of this year’s competition at a family-friendly, free exhibition at the Barony Hall, Glasgow on Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th June 2017.

Grace said: “I was walking my dog in a park and wanted to sit down but every bench was covered in water. It made me think, what if there was a way to turn the bench over and have a dry seat when it has been raining?

“It’s amazing to see my idea come to life and find out more about the design and development process. The bench is brilliant and better than I had imagined.”

Grace's initial design for ROB

As part of the project Grace took the trip to Strathclyde’s Faculty of Engineering to see the bench being manufactured. She was given a tour of the facilities and workshops by the team of five mechanical engineering Master’s students who have taken on her design as part of their final year work.

The exhibition comes following a recent report from the Royal Academy of Engineering calling for more playful experimentation to boost learning and instil a passion for engineering in young people across the UK.

Dr Andrew McLaren, Vice Dean of the Faculty of Engineering at Strathclyde, said: “The UK is currently estimated to be short of around 20,000 graduate engineers annually which creates a significant skills gap in the sector and a challenging future. The work of Primary Engineer is exactly the type of programme to help ignite a passion for engineering in young people, and will go a long way to inspiring future generations of inventors for our sector.

“Grace’s roll over bench design showed creativity, and ingenuity – two of the most important traits in an engineer’s inventory. She has a bright future ahead of her in the sector and the team has worked hard to complete the prototype to reveal at the exhibition in June.”

Lise McCaffery, Regional Director for Primary Engineer, said: “Over the past four years we have received tens of thousands of inspiring engineering solutions from young people across Scotland to problems in the world as they see them. From a dementia helmet for their Grandad; to a Calpol lolly for their younger sibling; or a magnetic label to pair socks in the washing machine for their parents, the best thing about this competition is seeing how these future engineers care about the world around them.”