A great podium finish! Boys’ safety device wins national safety award

A safety device developed by a team of Sixth Form engineers has won a national construction industry award – and was only pipped for the top prize by a multi-million pound project sponsored by British Airways.

QE’s team in the Engineering Education Scheme, partnered by Overbury, took a Highly Commended Award in the Innovation category in the Constructing Excellence Awards. (They were beaten by the airline’s i360 observation tower in Brighton, which holds the Guinness World Record for the most slender tower in the world.)

After the result was announced following judging by the Constructing Excellence South East panel at Lancaster Hotel London, representatives of Overbury, a national fit-out and refurbishment specialist, came into School to present the award to the boys in assembly.

Congratulating the team, Alex Wood, industrial mentor and health and safety advisor at Overbury, added: “Partnering with Queen Elizabeth’s School and helping these four students fulfil their extraordinary potential has been an incredible experience. We look forward to seeing them continue to develop and utilise their enormous talent and we have no doubt that these students will go on to achieve big things in the industry.”

""Overbury had asked the pupils to tackle one of the most prevalent health & safety concerns in construction – the safe use of movable podiums when working at height. The main issue with such podiums, which are very commonly used in the industry, is that they provide no automatic wheel–locking system. Operatives can be working at 12ft when standing on a podium, which, if unlocked, can easily move, putting the worker at serious risk.

""Team leader Richard Cavanagh and fellow Year 12 pupils Ricky Eatough, Mohit Miyanger and Piragash Selvakumar were tasked with designing and making an attachment for podiums that would remove the need for operatives to consciously lock the wheels before using the equipment. They were given six months to complete the challenge, and in this time, they visited two of Overbury’s biggest construction sites, interviewed health and safety professionals and researched possible solutions.

After careful planning, in-depth analysis and thorough research of the issues, the team created a safety spring device which involved a kick step on the podium, allowing it to stay secure regardless of weight or height. Making the device required advanced engineering techniques and processes, including casting aluminium and the use of CNC routers.

""The design will now be used by construction operatives working at height on podium steps, both in indoor and outdoor environments.

Michael Noonan, QE's Head of Technology, who oversaw the boys ’ participation in the scheme, said: “The four really went above and beyond the requirements for this project. The methods applied involved complex applications, which I would not expect 16 and 17-year-old students to devise. All four boys have worked extremely hard throughout the course of the project and I am delighted that their efforts have been recognised.

""“It is a truly remarkable achievement, and the many professionals present at the awards event commented on the boys’ outstanding commitment and energy in delivering such a professional project.”

Team leader Richard added: “Taking part in the Engineering Education Scheme has helped us to not only develop as engineers and designers, but also as people. The experience has helped me to develop teamwork, leadership and communication skills, as well as further developing my knowledge and understanding of civil, mechanical and design engineering.

""“Winning the award is a great honour: in fact, to be receiving awards alongside multi-million pound companies is slightly overwhelming, but it gives me great belief for our futures. I would like to re-iterate my thanks to Overbury for their help and support throughout this experience.”

The team have now submitted their application to the Big Bang Science and Engineering Fair which takes place in Birmingham in March 2018. There they will follow in the footsteps of a QE Year 13 team who were named as one of the Big Bang Competition Senior Engineering Runners-Up this year for their own safety project devised under the Engineering Education Scheme, a special helmet designed to save construction workers’ hearing from damage.