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Airport expansion: sixth form engineers to devise super-airport answer

 14 UK sixth form teams take up challenge of using transport engineering to solve London airports problem
 BlottMatthews Challenge calls on teams to create a London super-airport - by designing very high speed transit link between existing airports
 With £5,000 prize fund on offer, the Challenge, now in second year, aims to promote high level engineering careers

October 24, 2016, London, UK. Press Dispensary. As the UK government indicates its preference for London airport expansion but comes barely any closer to building a runway, an engineering design challenge for year 12 students may hold the real answer. The 2016/17 BlottMatthews Challenge today announces the teams from 14 UK schools and colleges that are competing to design a very high speed transit system to link all five of London's airports with a transfer time between any two airports of no more than 20 minutes. A £5,000 prize fund is on offer.

The BlottMatthews Challenge is now in its second year, having been piloted last year with five teams from the Portsmouth area. Last year's challenge, which entailed the comprehensive design of a manned space mission to Mars, and this year's Airport to Airport challenge, are the creations of two retired engineers, Richard Blott and Charles Matthews, who are organising the challenges and providing the prize money.

Charles Matthews said: "Richard and I both feel strongly that the UK needs to re-engage with the engineering profession, raising awareness, valuing it and encouraging young people to enter it. We have both had successful and rewarding careers in engineering and are now actively seek to encourage a new generation.

"We particularly want to address the appallingly low level of participation by women in professional engineering, which is presently under 10%. In last year's challenge, 50% of entrants were young women, an all-female team came second and the first team was 50/50 mixed.

"And how better to do it than to solve the very real-world problem of improving London's airport capacity?"

The Airport to Airport challenge is intentionally demanding. As Richard Blott explained: "Imagine a single London Airport with six runways and 10 terminals, and a transit time between any two terminals of less than 20 minutes. It exists today as Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton and City airports but without the very high speed transport link. 20 minutes is possible but it doesn't exist."

The year 12 (lower sixth) teams are challenged to design such a transit system. As well as selecting and explaining the technology to be used, which must be current or under development, they must choose routes, address the civil works requirements and provide basic costs, applying key engineering disciplines and a high level of project management to their inspired ideas.

"The step from classroom theory to solving a major real world challenge will give a hint of how exciting and rewarding engineering can be," continued Blott.

"Such a real-world system would enable passengers to check-in at their nearest terminal and be rapidly transferred to their departure terminal. Passengers would gain, airports and aircraft would be used more efficiently and road traffic, particularly around Heathrow, would be reduced. New runways  could  be put at any of the airports."

The £5,000 prize money comes from Blott and Matthews. There is no funding or support from elsewhere, which means no strings attached - for example, copyright in the submissions remains with the teams' schools and colleges. BlottMatthews  liaise with the charity Young Engineers to promote the challenge, and the prize money is deposited with the charity.

Their motive is not only to do with engineering but with the future of the UK. As Matthews emphasised: "Our country has an economic need to procure and run its own, very complex infrastructure systems and to build up our industrial base again. Financial and other services won't be enough to deliver the level of prosperity the nation aspires to. To pay its way, the UK needs industry and industry needs high level graduate and post-graduate engineers."

Matthews concluded: "At present, we feel students are actually discouraged from pursuing careers as engineers. This is not only bad for the UK but a disservice to them as individuals. The job opportunities and financial rewards are good and engineering can be a profoundly satisfying and personally rewarding career."

The Challenge requires solutions to be submitted by mid-March 2017, with winners announced mid-April.

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Notes for editors

The 14 participating teams are:

Abingdon School  (2 teams)
Havant Sixth Form college (2 teams)
Luton Sixth Form College
Monks Walk School - Hertfordshire
Oaklands Catholic School - Waterlooville, Hampshire
Portsmouth College
The Portsmouth Grammar School
St Andrew's Catholic School - Surrey
Stockley Academy -
Therfield School - Leatherhead, Surrey
South Bank Engineering UTC - SW2
St Albans School

Richard Blott and Charles Matthews are graduate engineers who met in the Royal Navy. Their later careers were spent in hi-tech enterprises, Richard specialising in space technology and Charles in telecommunications. Both have extensive international work and business experience. Although now retired they retain their enthusiasm for technology and seek to encourage young people to take up careers in engineering, and experience the demands and rewards of a very dynamic profession.

BlottMatthews exists solely as the home for the annual BlottMatthews Challenge, which is now in its second year.

For further information please contact
Charles Matthews, BlottMatthews
Tel: 07843 008 592 / 02392 595 356

Nobles Barn
Pattersons Lane
Hampshire PO8 0AH

Media contacts

Charles Matthews
Tel: 07843 008 592 / 02392 595 356

Nobles Barn
Pattersons Lane
Hampshire PO8 0AH

airport expansion new runway London airports challenge BlottMatthews Challenge engineering education engineering careers engineer graduates