After entering several national engineering competitions Andrew Cowan has finally made it and won the prestigious “UK Young Engineer of the Year” title. He received the award for his “Search and Rescue” robot that he built as part of his A-level DT Systems and Control coursework. The robot is very complex with 20 microchips controlling the control interface, sensors and radio links. The robot is extremely rugged and has enough power to pull a car. Other than showing the amount of intelligence Andrew has, it also shows a huge amount of dedication and persistence when it comes to problem solving. As we are currently studying the same course I thought it was appropriate that I should have an interview with him to find out how all this came about.
- How did your interest in engineering start off?
“I have always been interested in how things work, and I’ve always enjoyed making things (Lego / Airfix / RC models etc). Once I started being taught electronics at school, I started making more complex electronic and mechanical projects in my spare time”
- What do you think about being named “Young Engineer of The Year”?
“I’m delighted and honored to have won the title. My role as young engineer of the year is to promote a career in engineering to young people, and I’m looking forward to inspiring younger students about engineering over the next year”
- What aspect of engineering do you find the most interesting?
“I’ve always found electronics to be the most interesting part of electronics – while working on my robot I found that the most complex part (which I found most interesting) was the wireless communication and data transfer between different systems on the robot”
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
“I am currently being sponsored through my degree by ERA Technology (the Electrical Research Association) – after graduating, I will be employed in the Antenna and Electronic Systems Business Unit. They do a lot of work with high frequency radio communications (e.g. GPS, radar) – a field I am very interested in”
- What advice would you give someone wanting to study engineering?
“I think that engineers are often stereotyped as workmen who come to fix domestic appliances. In reality, however, a career in engineering usually involves design, innovation, and working at the cutting edge of research and development. It’s an exciting job of constantly solving problems and working on exciting projects”
After the interview Andrew and I had an interesting discussion about how engineering is portrayed in the media and how we could inspire younger people to go into a field that is in many occasions viewed as “boring” or “too difficult”. The field itself has so much to offer and in my view allows the student to unleash their creativity.
With Andrews’s practical experience and enthusiasm I am confident that not only will he inspire new students to study engineering, but also show current students the possibilities that lie with interest, commitment and persistence.
For those who want to follow in Andrew’s footsteps below are a few facts and figures about what he studied at college and competitions he entered:
A-Levels: Maths, Further maths, Physics, DT Systems and Control (studied at Sutton Grammar School, Surrey), now studying an MEng degree in Electronics with Mobile and Secure Systems at ECS.
National Science and Engineering Competition 2009: Highly commended prize for his GCSE electronics project
National Science and Engineering Competition 2010: Won first prize in the intermediate age category for the first year’s work done on his robot
National Science and Engineering Competition 2011: Won first prize in the senior age category (and the title of Young Engineer of the Year) for the second year’s work on his robot
Motors: 2 horse power (enough to pull a car)
Battery life: 8 hours
Data sent back to operator: Motor temperature (x2), Chassis temperature, CO2 levels, flammable gas levels, GPS location, motor speed (x2), current, voltage, gradient, light levels
Controls: Robot drive, lights, camera (pan and tilt), fire extinguisher (angle and pressure)
For more information on the competitions please visit: