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Students get hooked on Engineering

Nick Colosimo and students in the electronic warfare facility at BAE Systems Warton
Aspiring young engineers from all over the UK visited BAE Systems recently expecting to learn more about aircraft like the Typhoon. Instead they learnt about fish.

The fishy lesson came courtesy of Advanced Projects engineer Nick Colosimo who explained why nature can often be one of the greatest inspirations for engineering breakthroughs. 

Nick, whose job is to look at future trends and technologies in engineering said:  “Inspiration can come from anywhere.  Often a problem has been solved in nature millions of years before we have to tackle it and fish are a great example of that.”

Nick was amongst a number of presenters talking to the two groups of twenty students taking part in the taster weeks.  Nick used several examples from the sea which all use bioluminescence (visible light made by living creatures) as defensive aids:

  1. The hatchet fish – creates light in its lower body which allows the fish to hide from predators through a process called counter-illumination which makes the fish invisible to prey.  Translating this into engineering terms it’s a kind of ‘active’ stealth.
  2. Deep sea squid – some of which have the ability to lose limbs if under threat from predators.  Lost limbs are illuminated to put the predator off the trail.   Translating this into engineering terms it’s decoys such as flares
  3. Deep sea shrimps – excrete brightly glowing bacteria into the face of their attackers to temporarily blind them.  In engineering terms this is similar to Directed Infrared Counter Measures (DIRCM) and Directed Energy Weapons (DEW) used to confuse or blind in incoming missile.

Nick continued “Apply the learning from the hatchet fish to engineering and what do we have?  ‘ACTIVE’ STEALTH.  We are developing capabilities to make our products invisible to or disguised from the enemy whilst also protecting ourselves if we are seen.  Stealth and Counter Measures are important technologies that we have to continue to invest in and be the best in as a nation. It can be the difference that wins the war”.

Along with learning about fish, students also got to see some of the sites facilities such as the final assembly line for Typhoon and even had a go at flying the aircraft (in a simulator of course).  The week culminated in students delivering a presentation to a panel of judges from BAE Systems and parents were invited along to listen.   

Systems Taster weeks at BAE Systems take place each summer, giving students an invaluable experience of engineering in the workplace.  The taster weeks have proved successful in recent years and many of the attendees have progressed into a career in engineering, often returning to work for BAE Systems.

So a note to anyone thinking about a career at BAE Systems - never forget the fish.