Skip to content

By Aran Shaunak on

Celebrating the Year of Engineering

Now 2018 has come to an end, Aran Shaunak celebrates the Science Museum Group’s contribution to the Year of Engineering.

2018 was the Year of Engineering – a national HM Government campaign led by the Department for Transport to get young people engaged with engineering. The Science Museum Group are a key partner in the campaign, offering a varied events programme across four sites – the Science Museum in London, the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester, the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford and the National Railway Museum in York – in the largest cross-group collaboration project ever, supported by Bechtel and BEIS.

Electrifying experiences at the We Are Engineers Festival at the Science Museum

The Year of Engineering campaign was designed to help address the severe skills gap in the UK engineering sector: experts estimate that we’ll need almost 2 million more engineers by 2020. Therefore the focus of this campaign was to reach young people, in the hope that their experience might inspire them to consider a future career in engineering.

Minister for the Year of Engineering, Nusrat Ghani, said:

‘I would like to thank the Science Museum Group for its amazing commitment to bringing engineering to life for thousands of families, as part of the Government’s Year of Engineering. It’s fantastic to see the immense contribution the group made to the campaign’s goal of delivering more than one million direct experiences of engineering over 2018 through interactive exhibitions, workshops and the dedication of so many volunteers at its museums across the country. Alongside the Year of Engineering’s 1,400 partners, the Science Museum Group has helped to deliver a tangible and positive shift in attitudes towards engineering careers among young people on which we look forward to building in 2019 and beyond.’

Bechtel’s UK Managing Director, Paul Gibbs, said:

‘I’m delighted that Bechtel partnered with the Science Museum Group throughout 2018 as part of our commitment to the government’s Year of Engineering (YoE) campaign. Together with the museum we have captured the imaginations of thousands of young people, showing that if you want to shape the world, engineering is the way to do it.

‘Business, institutions, and educational bodies working together has enabled our field to be profiled in new and exciting ways, helping more people understand the positive impact that engineering has on the world. At Bechtel, every year is focussed around engineering so our activities won’t stop here. We will continue to help students of all genders discover the amazing careers possible in engineering.’

Families get involved at the Future Engineers Festival at the National Railway Museum

Professor Lynne Gladden, Executive Chair of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), said:

‘Engineering plays a vital role in driving innovation and economic growth. UKRI has been proud to support the Year of Engineering and SMG to inspire young people from all backgrounds to take a closer look at engineering and showcasing the variety and creativity of this forward-looking sector.’

The Group’s focus was on hosting events where families could explore the wonders of engineering. Between running regular engineering-themed workshops and shows at weekends and putting on flagship family festivals – including Future Engineers in York, We Are Engineers in London, as well as engineering sections at the Bradford and Manchester Science Festivals – all four sites pulled together to reach an impressive 120,000 children and 120,000 adults.

Things got technical during the National Railway Museum’s school programme

Efforts also extended outside of school holiday periods: throughout the year the Group welcomed hundreds of school trips, inviting students to take part in various engineering-themed programmes across the country. Whether building and testing their own catapults in London, designing robotic racers in Manchester or writing code and fixing hardware in York, over 18,000 schoolchildren across the country got the chance to discover engineering for themselves and meet professional engineers face to face.

But for us the Year of Engineering wasn’t just for kids. We gave our adult audiences the chance to have fun and learn a few tricks at Engineering Magic Lates in Bradford, or to become exoskeleton-clad superheroes at Engineering Lates at the Science Museum. Down in London we also hosted a panel discussions around the ‘Science of F1’ and the ‘Art of Engineering’ drawing crowds of interested adults, as well as our IMAX screening of Marvel’s Black Panther as part of the Women in Engineering Family Festival, to explore the importance of diversity in engineering.

‘Black Panther’ film screening and panel discussion on women in Engineering, hosted by Angela Saini at the Science Museum’s IMAX Theatre

A key part of our Year of Engineering events at all sites was giving people that chance to meet real engineers for themselves. In a new initiative for all museums in the Group, we invited expert volunteers to our museums to get involved and share their experiences with our visitors. We received lots of interest and in the end we welcomed almost 1000 volunteer engineers across all sites, who collectively contributed over 6,500 hours of their time to helping us inspire the futures of our young audiences. We’d like to say a huge thank you to all of them, as we couldn’t have delivered such a fantastic programme without their hard work.

Engineers were put on the spot at the National Railway Museum’s Future Engineers Festival

Welcoming in new volunteers gave us the chance to focus on our second major goal: highlighting diversity. Engineering in the UK isn’t the most balanced field: only 12% of engineers are female and only 8% come from BAME backgrounds. We wanted young people to see engineers like them, people they could relate to and who shared their interests, so we aimed to represent these communities in our volunteer pool. Happily we exceeded our goals: over 40% of our volunteers were female and almost 15% were from a BAME background, helping ensure that our visitors had the chance to find an engineer like them.

Everyone was getting creative at the Science Museum’s We Are Engineers Festival

With all these interactive events taking place across the country, it’s easy to forget all the other ways we champion engineering. We saw over half a million people explore our Engineering themed galleries Engineering Your Future at Science Museum and Testing and Engineering The Now at the National Railway Museum, and tens of thousands settle down to watch our flagship engineering IMAX film, Dream Big.

School trips are more fun when you get to watch Dream Big on an IMAX screen

As a key partner in the Year of Engineering campaign we’re proud to have reached so many people with such an important message in so many creative and engaging ways. The final figures reveal that as a result of all our activity, we’ve given the public 4.5 million interactions with the Year of Engineering brand, and that as a group we’ve offered young people over 135,000 engineering-related interactions – 13% of the campaign’s overall target for the year. With any luck perhaps some of those will now be thinking that engineering is, in fact, a career for them.

Our Year of Engineering programme was presented in association with HM Government’s Year of Engineering campaign, made possible with the generous support of Bechtel, BEIS and Year of Engineering.

To find out more about the campaign and to help inspire young people with activities, videos, events and teaching resources, visit