Hopes high for hi-tech hard hat competition entry

Young engineers hoping to repeat the success of last year’s QE team in a major construction industry competition have got off to a strong start.

The 2015-2016 team from Year 12 have already won one award and narrowly missed out on another. Now they await the results of their presentation to an assessment panel at the South East Regional Final of the Constructing Excellence competition to find out if they have won the Health and Safety Award – the award won by the QE team in 2015. That team went on to win plaudits for their work from the world’s largest occupational health & safety organisation, the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH).

The QE boys are sponsored by Lovell Construction and are taking part in the competition as part of the Engineering Education Scheme, which is run annually by the Engineering Development Trust to introduce sixth-formers to engineering by promoting joint projects between schools and companies.

""This year’s team, comprising Year 12 boys Sachin Ghelani, Tochi Onuora, Chris Suen and Yazad Sukhia, were set the following brief: Construction sites are teeming with the roar of engines and the noise of machines: Create a means of alerting workers to unsafe noise levels (85Db) so that they can take appropriate steps to protect themselves.

They set out to investigate the problem in the semi-completed Lymington Mews housing development being built by Lovell in Chadwell Heath, a prime area of real estate as it is soon to be served by Crossrail.

Technology teacher Michael Noonan, who organised the boys’ involvement in the competition, said: “They noticed that worker knowledge of protection methods was exemplary. However, the ability to differentiate between unsafe and safe noise levels proved difficult. This led to the boys’ planning of their idea – a construction safety helmet which would in addition to its basic function of head protection also provide a noise-alerting unit that would demonstrate when unsafe noise levels had been reached.

""“This concept takes the traditional ‘hard hat’ and combines it with the newest advances in 3D printing technology, electronic control (through an Arduino console, advanced audio-sensory and Crumble programming) to create a fully functional and site-ready prototype.”

The boys worked diligently on investigation, research and design, Mr Noonan reported.  They carried out rigorous testing at Lovell’s Ponders End site, where there were significant groundworks sites taking place and consequently unsafe noise levels. The tests proved that the helmet was successful in indicating those unsafe levels.

The team presented their project to Lovell’s London Board of Management, who commented particularly on the advance and complex nature of the project and on the levels of enthusiasm and confidence exuded by the boys. Theirs was, they said, “the most impressive project we have seen yet”.

""Next the boys took part in the Celebration and Assessment day at University College London. “The boys knew that the reputation of the 2014-15 team still loomed large, and that Queen Elizabeth’s had great prestige at this event,” said Mr Noonan. They succeeding in winning the Students’ Choice Award – a prize which had in fact eluded QE last year. However, there was bitter disappointment for the boys as they were pipped by Fortismere School by a single point for the new Contribution to Business Award, which recognises the greatest contribution to sponsors’ interests.

They then presented their project to the Constructing Excellence competition’s assessment panel for the South East region. “They eagerly await the announcement in June, which could again mean a possibility of national honours,” Mr Noonan said.