The First QE Prize

Start of a new Era?

The Lad said that he would be watching. There were doubts.
The first Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering has now been awarded. This is the First Prize of a million pounds: it is to be the first sight of the resulting ‘broad, sunlit uplands’ where the engineering profession will be recognised and courted and besieged by the ranks of youth who will set it alight in the decades to come.
Certainly they, the winners with the other IT workers, introduced a gigantic category that is not recognised by any of the Nobel Prizes: Berners Lee conceiving the ‘www’ idea; and working on communication protocols were Cerf, Kahn and Pouzin, while Andreessen developed the net browser.

They said:

The Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering is a global prize recognising and celebrating outstanding advances in engineering that have changed the world.      

…Will reward and celebrate an individual (or up to three individuals)…..

[Prize awarded this time to five individuals.]

 ‘raise the international public profile of engineering and inspire new generations of engineers’.

Yes…. Yes but…

Do the organisers know what real engineering actually is? Is IT actually Engineering; see here and here?

Engineers of every stripe have one thing in common. That is they manage forces in the world for the benefit of mankind. Computer scientists and coders plan structures of ideas and write logical statements to dance in the infinite and malleable cyberspace: they do not engineer anything.

Somehow it seems to be unsurprising to the cynical among those in the engineering profession that the first Prize has been awarded to the IT industry.

OMG. How much profile raising of Information Technology (IT) is needed in this day and age?

All IT is currently very fashionable in the prints and already uber-cool with the young. As the young easily do, they clearly see it as being the be all and end all of the modern world. Real engineering it is that would benefit from it.

Let us look at the judges on the Awards Committee. There were 15 judges. We could use some Venn diagrams to make this clear, but of them;

There is only one Engineer active in the field. One! All praise then, Paul Westbury, the brilliant [and young] designer of several magnificent, real world structures.

Among the 14 others, there are 10 academics.

In the remaining 4 there are 3 individuals working commercially, outside the groves of academe, and they are all in the IT field, i.e. Google, Indian software and Seattle patent brokers.

The other one is a biologist working on evolution applications to, inter alia, energy.

How many of the academics have ever designed or developed or procured an engineered object, e.g. the parts of a machine or structure, to specification, time and price – let alone all of these processes at one time?

What was the contribution of each Judge; did all take equal part?

On the day of the announcement, on18 March 2013, BBC News reported the award of the QE Prize for Engineering. The piece was introduced by the Science Correspondent; there was a stock clip of molten metal being tapped [wearisome]. This was followed by a talking Brian Cox [Rock aura and nice looking]. The Lad has a lot of time for the guy but he is a physicist, not an engineer. Oh! And then a Social Studies Think Tank person intoned that “We need more engineers”.

With such a first award of the Prize, how can The Lad get the organisers to understand and arrange that the media need more proper engineers talking on the telly about real engineering? Details are difficult but principles and artefacts can be photogenic and attractive to the young.

Will the Prize sponsors who dipped into their pockets for the funds recognise this as engineering? Who were engineers on the Prize short list?

Consider all the stakeholders here.

Sponsors vs. Prize Management Panel vs. Prize Judges vs. Nobel Prize vs. youngsters encouraged vs. engineering profession vs. Academia.

Are they anywhere near in the right balance?

There is no evidence from this First Prize that it will even begin to bring any benefit to Engineering.

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