Let’s get competitive (Day 41)

snails racingWhether we like it or not, all of us are living in a competitive world. Even professions need to compete to show their continuing relevance and value, especially when you consider that their relationships with members can and does endure throughout entire working lives of 40 years and more.

Of course, some professions compete better than others. By design or luck they have a desirable image, higher status and better profile with important stakeholders such as young people, parents, business, decision-makers like governments, and many others.

Historically, I think chemical engineering has been a relatively shy profession. It’s something we need to become better at and use all the opportunities we have to show how chemical engineering matters.

So on the theme of competing, I thought I’d look at some of the best ‘competitions’ used to attract interest and raise profiles.

Chem-e-carOne of the most successful and enduring competitions is chem-e-car. In a nutshell, the students must design small-scale automobiles that operate by chemical means, along with a poster describing their research. They must drive their car a fixed distance and demonstrate its capabilities.

There are successful chem-e-car competitions all across the world, including Chemeca14 being held in Perth, Australia, later in the year.

Our profession has many visual assets, so it was great to see the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) launch a competition last month called Images with Impact.

Images with Impact forms part of BBSRC’s 20th anniversary programme and they are looking for the best images that showcase UK bioscience and its importance in everyday life including photography, visualisations and even illustrations. Entries can be submitted from the public, BBSRC-researchers and students. Submissions will close on 6 October 2014.

Of course there are many more ‘competitions’ which create noise and interest. Our friends at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers run a competition called Speak Out for Engineering, which encourages effective communication by engineers.

Honeywell are sponsoring a competition for chemical engineering students to create a new design, or model a process problem.

The Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering is a global £1 million prize that celebrates the engineers responsible for a ground-breaking innovation that has been of global benefit to humanity.

The £10 million Longitude Prize has just been awarded to help solve the challenge of antibiotic resistance.

Pratt Prize winners

Pratt Prize winners 2014 – University of Melbourne

IChemE and its members also contribute with its medals, fellowships, and various prizes like the Pratt Prize.

And finally, the jewel of all chemical engineering competitions are the IChemE Awards which are held in Malaysia, Singapore, North America before culminating in the Global Awards on 6 November (don’t forget to apply by 11 July 2014).

Good luck to all you competitors and don’t forget to make some noise on behalf of the profession.

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If you’re entering or organising a chemical engineering competition in 2014/2015, please get in touch and tell us your story.