A huge range of engineering and technology innovations have descended from Birmingham and the West Midlands. Not only do Britain’s automotive and rail sectors have a long heritage and continued presence in the area, with the likes of Jaguar Land Rover and HS2, but did you know X-Rays, microwave ovens, the Ferranti Mark 1 computer, record players, steel nib pens and even the first weather map, naming but a few, were all created in Birmingham or by Birmingham-born engineers?
These impressive feats, along with wider STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) themes are all being celebrated in a series of new and thought-provoking exhibits installed in IET Birmingham: Austin Court. Visitors and guests to the venue will now see displays across the building’s two floors and 14 versatile event spaces, reflecting on the regions engineering achievements past and present, as well as intended to inspire engineers of the future.
Visitors to Austin Court will be welcomed by the glass atrium adorned with colourful visuals of engineering and technology innovations, all representing a connection to Birmingham and the West Midlands. Visuals include the bicycle bell as invented by John Richard Dedicoat in Birmingham; electric kettle invented by Arthur L. Large for Birmingham firm Bulpitt & Sons; and the Austin Motor Company founded in Birmingham in 1905.
In the main reception guests will find a bespoke WELCOME sculpture created from no less than 63 different engineering objects taken from the automotive, transport and communication sectors as well as STEM items found in the home and objects used in-game play, cameras and computers.
Images of 100 Engineering Ideas that Changed the World, as voted for by IET members, line the walls of the main communal stairwell between the two floors. The items depicted celebrate everything from steam technology, a key component in the industrial revolution, to the microscope, which led to the discovery of disease-causing micro-organisms; as well as movable type printing and the creation of the printing press.
Lastly, a special exhibition showcasing the contribution of women engineers and inventors from across the globe has been installed into the Lodge Rooms, which are three versatile event spaces on the first floor. Celebrating the rich history of women in engineering and their discoveries, the room exhibits also document current women engineers and their inspiring engineering career paths.
Part of this installation also explores the top 10 inventions and discoveries made by women. It shines a spotlight on women trailblazers such as Patricia Bath who discovered and invented a new device and technique for cataract surgery known as laserphaco; Lisa Seacat DeLuca a software engineer working as IBM’s most prolific female inventor; and Mary Sherman Morgan regarded as America’s first female rocket scientist.
Currently just over one in ten engineers in the UK (11%) are female. Only 26% of girls are looking to pursue a career in STEM, compared to 43% of boys, while less than one in ten (9%) of children imagine the typical engineer to be a woman. These new exhibits are vitally important to present a new perspective for future careers, especially for women, in the sector.