Four technicians from the School of Engineering have been shortlisted for the Papin Prizes, the UK’s only award dedicated to celebrating technical excellence and innovation in higher education and research.
Andrew Brown, Jim Hutcheson, Calum Melrose, and Mark Partington were shortlisted for this year’s awards across four separate categories after being selected from hundreds of nominees.
The awards will be presented at the biannual Higher Education Technician Summit (HETS) 2021 on Wednesday 10 November 2021 at the East Midlands Conference Centre, University of Nottingham.
Andrew Brown: Contribution to Teaching
Andrew, who works in the mechanical engineering teaching lab, was nominated for his work facilitating practical teaching activities and supporting research activities.
Before joining the School in 2017, Andrew worked for 13 years in the professional motorsports industry and for a few years in the automotive repair and tuning sector.
During Covid-19, Andrew was part of a Engineering-led team which manufactured face shields for frontline workers. He was also heavily involved in an initiative led by Professor Tim Drysdale to design and construct a large remote laboratory project, allowing students to conduct real-time practical experiments while working off campus.
Andrew explained that the latter project was conceived before the Covid-19 pandemic, “so when the lockdown hit, we were able to use the knowledge base we had already built up to quickly implement a large-scale array of experiments to allow students to continue their studies.”
Andrew also enjoys working on outreach projects to inspire the next generation of engineers; recently designing and constructing 50 small model wind turbines to bring mechanical and electrical engineering to local schools and colleges.
Jim Hutcheson: The Professor Lord Bhattacharyya Lifetime Achievement Award
Civil engineering technician Jim was nominated for the Lifetime Achievement Award, in recognition of his continued excellence and significant achievements across a longstanding technical career.
Jim joined the School as a civil engineering student in 1974, staying on as a Technician working with Professor Mike Forde to test soils, concretes and structures such as roof trusses.
Over the years, he has supported diverse civil engineering teaching activities and student projects, including being a demonstrator for subjects such as soil mechanics, geotechnical engineering, structural and fluid mechanics. Jim enjoyed a stint coordinating lab class timetables, which involved working closely with students and course organisers - explaining, “I would meet the students many times over their first three years – often seeing some return to do a PhD and becoming lasting friends.”
The late 1990s brought much organisational and structural change in the School, during which time Jim was appointed Chief Technician (Teaching)/Lab Superintendent – playing a pivotal role in maintaining continuity in civil engineering teaching labs and facilities.
In later years, he has actively supported the next generation of technical staff in the School through the Modern Apprenticeship scheme, and has continued to provide technical support for teaching innovations such as the University's new hybrid teaching approach during Covid-19.
Calum Melrose: Best Newcomer
Calum was nominated in the Newcomer category, which recognises individuals who have embarked on a technical career within the past four years and shown exceptional promise.
Calum’s career at the University started in IT and administration – “a long way away from engineering” – based at the Mackenzie Medical Centre in Community Health Sciences, where he was responsible for IT systems and databases, patient call and recall, and medical records coding.
However, Calum’s personal interests lay in all things mechanical – restoring vintage buses and building scale models – and in 2018 he decided to pursue a career change, joining the School of Engineering as an Assistant Technician in the Mechanical Engineering Teaching Lab.
As Calum explains, the lab is not only a teaching space, but supports multiple users and projects including student-led groups such as Edinburgh University Formula Student, the School’s Hyperloop society HYPED, and rocketry team Endeavour – providing regular opportunities “to further develop my skills and learn a range of new ones too”.
In 2020 Calum achieved professional registration with the Institute of Mechanical Engineers and is also a member of the Society of Operations Engineers and the Institute of Road Transport Engineers.
During Covid-19, Calum was part of the team producing face shields in the Mechanical Engineering Teaching Lab, and worked alongside Andrew Brown on Professor Drysdale’s project to develop and manufacture remote lab experiments and boxes.
Mark Partington: Contribution to Research
Mark is a metalwork specialist who was nominated for significant technical contributions to research activities.
Mark left secondary school early and became a Metalsmith in the British Army, spending seven years as part of a team servicing tanks and other military equipment.
He moved on to roles in metal fabrication companies for around a decade before coming to the University in 2016, in search of “a more mentally rewarding job where I could use my experience to solve varied problems rather than repetitive production work”.
Since working at the University, Mark has used his expertise in metalwork and fabrication to design and create fixtures and apparatus for large-scale structural tests in the School’s Institute of Infrastructure and Environment. He also assists other research groups with a wide range of specialist metalwork as required.
Mark has worked on several pioneering renewable energy technology projects, including Powderblade, which used novel engineering methods to modernise the way large wind turbine blades are manufactured and installed. He also supported a WikiHouse project to test renewable building methods.