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Apprentice gadget boosts athlete’s Paralympic hopes

Paralympics hopeful Caroline Wareing
A new gadget developed by a team of young engineers is boosting a disabled athlete’s chance of a place at the Paralympic Games.

The apprentices from BAE Systems’ Military Air and Information business are working with Caroline Wareing, a hand-bike athlete who is among a group of hopefuls bidding to make the Games in Brazil in 2016.

The team are looking to provide an anti-twist Gyro, which would stop the bike’s brake cable from twisting and breaking, potentially causing a serious collision.  It is hoped the partnership can engineer a winning advantage for Caroline and further test and prove the Gyro with a view to it being made more widely available to hand-bike users.

Athlete Caroline said: “Brake cables snapping is a really common occurrence with certain types of hand-bike and if you are a disabled hand-bike user and out on your own when your brake cables snap, you could have serious problems. Even simple things like getting my legs in and out of the bike can be a problem, so I am hoping the engineering know-how of the apprentices can help me with that as well.”

Caroline broke her back when falling from a horse during a show in 2009 leaving her unable to use her legs. Having been accepted onto the British Cycling development squad, she is now one of seven hopefuls aiming to make the squad for the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in two years.

The young engineers came up with the Gyro as part of a winning entry of the Apprentice Innovation Challenge, an annual competition run by BAE Systems and injured soldiers’ charity, Help for Heroes, to use their engineering minds to solve problems faced by amputees.

Alex Griffiths, the apprentice who led the winning team, said: “Our hope from the start was that our device could be used to help Paralympic hand-bike athletes of the future, and we would love to help Caroline with her ambitions.

“Applying our expertise to a totally different aspect of engineering to what we normally work on has built the confidence of the entire team and we feel passionate about the finished products we have engineered.”

The BAE Systems team was made up of a mix of technical, business and shop floor apprentices from across its Warton and Samlesbury sites.

BAE Systems Military Air & Information managing director Chris Boardman, who started his career as an apprentice, said he was “very proud” to see the winning team putting their innovation in to practice

He said: “The Apprentice Innovation Challenge gives our apprentices the chance to showcase their talents and develop skills, from project management to technical skills. It would be fantastic to see the innovation the apprentices have developed used to support Caroline with her sporting ambitions.”

Other products which have been born out of the Apprentice Innovation Challenges include BedFleX, a device that allows injured military personnel to exercise independently and safely from their beds.

That product designed by BAE Systems’ apprentices went on to win Gold in the global BAE Systems Chairman’s Awards and also the Make it in Great Britain Challenge and is currently undergoing further patient trials at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham.

In December, BAE Systems announced plans to offer 568 apprenticeship places next September, the highest intake since the Company was formed some 14 years ago and 181 more places than were offered in 2013.

For supporting imagery and video:-
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For more information, please contact:


David Coates, BAE Systems
Tel: +44 (0)1772 854636
david.coates@baesystems.com

Kate Watcham, BAE Systems
Mob: +44(0)7793 420731
kate.watcham@baesystems.com