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Apprentices' Engineering Gadgets Aim To Help Britain's Wounded Heroes

London, United Kingdom: As part of the Company’s Apprentice Innovation Challenge, seven teams of BAE Systems’ apprentices have designed and manufactured equipment to support the recovery of wounded soldiers returning from Afghanistan

The winning design was awarded to apprentices from BAE Systems in Rochester, Kent for their ‘Inviso visual aid device’, helping solider with restricted movement, such as back injuries, to see their surroundings.

The clever device uses a combination of three cameras to give the soldier an unrestricted view of the hospital ward; enabling them to see other patients, visitors and to help with basic needs such as eating and shaving. The ‘Inviso’ will provide the patients with control over what they can see, allowing them a greater independence and help to boost their morale.

Apprentice Steven Costin from Rochester said: “It’s great to be at the final ceremony and impress everyone with our design. It’s a huge achievement for to be developed further by the hospital. We would all be so proud to see patients using it in the future”.

The 60 BAE Systems apprentices, all aged between 19 and 24, have spent the last nine months developing visual aid devices or physiotherapy equipment in partnership with the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham. The teams presented their designs to an audience of senior military officials, charities, doctors and BAE Systems’ management during a final awards ceremony at the Imperial War Museum, London.

The Apprentice Innovation Challenge is run every two years by BAE Systems with different partner charities. This year BAE Systems worked closely with Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, the home of the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine, to ensure the recovery aids are designed with the patient’s future use firmly in mind.

The apprentices were presented with two challenges this year. Each team could choose to take on either the ‘wider view’ challenge, to devise a solution which enables the patient to see around them as if they were sitting up in bed and can move their head; or the ‘bed based exercise’ challenge, where teams had to invent physiotherapy equipment that can be used in bed as a form of physical exercise – an important motivator for fitness-focused military patients. The team’s designs were judged by a ‘Dragons Den’ panel of experts, consisting of medical experts and senior engineering staff from BAE Systems.

Mike Hammond, chief executive of Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, said: “The charity works directly with military patients and their families, funding equipment and facilities which aren’t provided by the NHS. These items range from DVDs in the ward common room to more innovative rehabilitation equipment such as a Nintendo Wii, purchased to help amputees with their balance and fitness.

“The charity, physiotherapy and critical care staff at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham worked closely with BAE Systems to design and run the Innovation Challenge and we have been very impressed with the results. These devices solve real challenges faced by injured soldiers during the first stages of their recovery and rehabilitation with the potential to enhance the world class medical care patients currently receive.”

Clyde Warsop, Executive Scientist and judge from BAE Systems, added: “The Apprentice Innovation Challenge is helping an extremely important cause this year by developing engineering devices that could help our brave servicemen and women recover from injuries. It also encourages our apprentices to develop the kind of project management, teamwork and technical skills that we value most in our company’s staff.”