Half a dozen young civil engineers left this week's Civils 2006 exhibition notably richer and happier than when they arrived. They were the winners of the NCE Graduate Awards 2006 competition, the results of which were announced at the show yesterday in a room crammed with industry leaders.
Their applause, recognising the all-round engineering ability, enthusiasm and commitment of our six winners, could prove of more lasting benet than the prizes.
The £1,000 top prize went to Oxford University graduate Zeena Farook, now with Arup, although the two joint runnersup, each winning £500, and the three highly commended, receiving £250, were close on her heels in a high quality field of 92 contenders, spreading as far afield as Ethiopia, the Philippines and Australia.
All six finalists won through an essay round to be interviewed by a group of 16 judges drawn from the scheme's sponsors.
Celebrating its 10th year, the Awards allow NCE and the industry to recognise and reward the excellence of our profession's most committed new entrants. Here NCE Graduate Awards secretary David Hayward proles the winners.
Winner: Zeena Farook
Two return trips to her Sri Lankan birthplace helped carve the future career of our NCE graduate of the year Zeena Farook.
The first, made when she was eight, triggered her desire to do something to improve the infrastructure of a developing country. And the second, on honeymoon two years ago, convinced the then Oxford University civil engineering undergraduate that she had chosen a profession that really could help other people's quality of life.
'My second visit, just two days after my wedding, was to the region hit by the Boxing Day tsunami less than a week earlier, ' she recalls. 'What I saw reinforced my passion for engineering and I realised that I really could make a difference.
I now see engineering not as a career in itself but as a pathway to helping others.' Her first interests, as a toddler arriving to live in England, were Lego and 'complex' Meccano.
By the time she arrived at Oriel College, Oxford, Ford had already tested a full-size mock up of a futuristic car frame she had designed at school. Her sights were set firmly on consultancy with Arup, her gap year employer and university sponsor.
She was impressed by her first experience of site work, monitoring massive piling operations inside deep Canary Wharf foundations. 'I learnt a lot from the men on site and it offered me a significant contrast to Oxford's academic environment, ' she says.
Geotechnical ngineering grabbed Farook's attention and the results of her university design project, on the relatively unexplored behaviour of sand during the sinking of offshore caisson foundations, are about to be published in the ICE's geotechnical proceedings.
Highlight of her first postgraduate year with Arup has been the design of the complex three level basement retaining walls for an extension of Leeds Metropolitan University. It is a project she hopes to help supervise on site next spring.
'Powerful, well informed and highly articulate, ' concluded the judges on listening to our winner's case for a more sustainable approach to construction.
'Clients are generally now taking sustainability seriously, but there remains the danger of civil engineers still doing only as the client demands, ' argues our 24 year old superstar.
'Building ski slopes in Dubai cannot be the right way forward and, as engineers, it is our duty to persuade clients of the importance of sustainability in everything we do for them.' She believes that government should rely on - and take the advice of - civil engineers to a far greater degree than at present.
'We create the infrastructure so are more qualified than politicians to make decisions about it, ' claims Farook. 'The ICE's State of the Nation report should not be just a statement but also a proactive summary of how engineers can influence it.' New Zealand, she thought, would be a good holiday destination on which to blow her £1,000 winning prize. But, on reflection, she changed her mind. 'I cannot overlook the opportunity to return again to Sri Lanka to see what effect civil engineering has had on improving the region's infrastructure.' 'Zeena is already an ambassador to the civil engineering profession and will go far in her career, ' claimed her Arup training director. The judges agreed and hope that singling her out from over 90 other contenders for the top award will help strengthen that career path.
l Graduate engineer, Arup l 2:1 MEng, Oxford University l 2006 ICE Medal for Graduates and Students paper competition l University academic scholarship Joint runner-up:
Mike Hunting Building complex sand cities, with roads, bridges and high rise flats was joint runner-up Mike Hunting's summertime passion as a nine year old on the beach.
It marked the beginning of the 25 year old Atkins highways engineer's fascination for construction.
This much-travelled Durham University graduate has helped build over 100 homes in tsunamihit Sri Lanka, designed highways in Qatar, worked on construction sites in Bolivia and played a leading role in providing half a dozen remote Peruvian villages with water and sanitation.
'My three months in Peru's jungles taught me what real civil engineering is all about;
helping and supporting others by providing basic infrastructure needs, ' he reflects.
Such a mission statement is, he claims, applicable to both his passions - engineering and Christianity.
'They are a good fit, ' says Hunting. Most of his overseas ventures have been funded through Christian charities.
With a mechanical engineer dad, quantity surveyor grandfather and an uncle owning a building firm, Hunting's early career thoughts were somewhat resistant to more of the same.
But the sand-filled holidays prevailed and, by the time he had left school, his sixth form design of an ornamental pagoda was being turned into reality in the school grounds, while books on architecture and construction had become essential reading.
Several Royal Academy of Engineering awards helped reinforce his career plans while at Durham.
Spending a year of his course at Berlin's Technical University highlighted the more visible nature of construction schemes in mainland Europe.
'Berlin was one vast construction site, ' he says. 'But its engineers seemed much more proud to show off their achievements than we are.' 'Mike has the potential to inspire others into engineering;
a profession that is desperate for such role models, ' says his Atkins training manager The judges echoed his company's praise. 'He has definitely got the X- factor and can clearly think outside the box.'
l Graduate highways engineer, Atkins l 2:1 MEng, Durham University l Royal Academy of Engineering leadership and executive engineers awards l Member of charity Christian Engineers in Development Joint runner-up:
Robin Campbell For his pre-university gap year Robin Campbell went to Sri Lanka as a volunteer English teacher at a remote village school.
He returned a year later leaving behind him a personal legacy - a total water supply system for his adopted village and a dozen others.
The then 18 year old had initiated the scheme, won government approval, raised the £12,000 funding and helped build 10 professionally designed water wells, plus over 200 lavatories.
'Realising the tremendous impact such simple schemes can have on developing countries convinced me to become a civil engineer, ' he says.
'Adaptability and creativity were crucial and have become the foundation on which I want to build my career.' By the time he had left Cardiff University four years later, Campbell had added to his CV tunnelling work in Japan, rainwater harvesting studies in India, jetty construction in Canada and chairing a volunteer group of several hundred fellow students engaged in over 40 projects to help local disadvantaged groups.
After a first postgraduate year with Arup, he shows little sign of changing his approach to life.
'Luckily rup ncourages wide-ranging involvement in our profession's varied activities, ' he explains.
Among his current engineering related interests he lists WaterAid, the RedR Challenge and involvement in the charity Engineers without Borders - the Cardiff University branch of which he set up four years ago.
Still focusing, during his day job, on water supply and treatment, he feels proud of what many in his profession are doing to enhance and educate developing countries.
'Robin is a rare and remarkable man with hidden depths, ' says his Arup boss. 'He is an asset to the team and to the industry.' The judges endorsed this view, adding that his obvious ambassadorial quality was already being channelled towards fellow young engineers.
'He is not fazed by the challenges facing our industry and exudes a wave of awareness and ambition, ' they concluded.
l Graduate water engineer, Arup l First class MEng, Cardiff University l IESTE trainee of the year finalist l Twice winner of the Norman Thomas design prize Highly commended Martin Deane 'A fearless approach to design problems, ' is how a Jacobs senior consultant describes graduate water engineer Martin Deane's enthusiasm for work.
'It is an attitude that instils condence, rather than any concern of recklessness, and, in short, he excels at whatever task he tackles, ' continues his employer.
Four years at Queen's University Belfast, followed by one at Jacobs, have given this highly commended 24 year old nalist a wealth of early experience. This ranges from design of a Nigerian dam spillway, feasibility analysis for a Manila water company and working for a building consultant in Sri Lanka.
One of his proudest achievements, as president of his university engineering society, was organising - and raising £6,000 for a week long trip by 38 fellow students around Dutch construction sites.
Promoting sustainability within construction should, he says, be tackled from top political levels downwards.
'We must not contemplate any government that could spend more on replacing our nuclear deterrent than on combating global warming.' Closer to home is the need for construction companies to invest more in the welfare and happiness of their own staff.
'High staff turnover does immense damage to company efciency and to the value it can offer clients.' 'He is an ambitious, condent and clear thinking engineer, ' summed up the judges.
l Graduate water engineer, Jacobs l First class MEng, Queen's University, Belfast l Royal Academy of Engineering leadership award l President of university engineering society Highly commended Martin Stanley A black eye to match the best of them greeted the judges when Martin Stanley arrived for his shortlist interview.
Hockey was the culprit.
This 24 year old geotechnical engineer with foundations contractor Bachy Soletanche is also a nationally qualied coach.
'I lost an argument with my opponent's stick, ' he explained.
Concrete, hard hats and ashing lights - in roughly that order - were what rst attracted young Stanley to construction.
And from the outset, the only contractor among the nalists knew that site work would be his rst love.
Building a 12m high concrete model of Barcelona's communications tower while at London's Imperial College has been followed by a year with Bachy Soletanche designing complex and varied foundations.
'I found contracting much closer to the real coal face of construction, ' he says.
'You are never just a human calculator and get lots of early responsibility.' Working together on site as a team producing the best overall scheme is the key to satisfying construction, he claims. 'Too much time can be spent trying to make money out of each other by relentlessly arguing over claims.' 'I have yet to meet a more talented young engineer whose main characteristics are those of conscientiousness, honesty and air, ' says his company's chief engineer.
'Enthusiastic and condent beyond his years, ' echoed the judges.
l Graduate geotechnical engineer, Bachy Soletanche l First class MEng, Imperial College, London l Higher Education Academy engineering award l Nationally qualied hockey coach Highly commended Tom Newby Tom Newby, our highly commended structural engineer with Buro Happold is proud of his work with the charity Engineering Without Borders.
His pride is justly placed.
In 2001, as a 19 year old undergraduate at Cambridge University, Newby, and a colleague, founded the charity.
Over the following ve years he has continued, as chairman, trustee and company secretary, overseeing its rapid development from a group of six Cambridge students to a team of 1,500 undergraduates at 16 UK universities. The charity has so far raised some £200,000 to complete over 100 projects worldwide.
'My real love is not so much the engineering, but what comes out of it, ' says Newby.
'I became an engineer because no other profession has more power to create things that increase the quality of people's lives.' Newby's employer is a major supporter of EWB and has encouraged him to organise, in 2008, a 500-strong gathering of international politicians, government bodies, engineering companies and academics to create global partnerships so reinforcing the charity's continued growth.
Newby is critical of degree course content at many establishments.
'They offer a real capacity to put people off engineering, ' he claims. 'Their overwhelmingly academic approach fails to address the profession's need for a social conscience and humanitarian responsibility.' It is criticism he extends to the industry in general. 'It remains too easy for engineers to disassociate work at their design desks from the effect they will have on people's lives.' 'Passionate and exhibiting a commitment to civil engineering and its consequences, ' is how the judges summed up Newby's qualities.
l Graduate structural engineer, Buro Happold l 2:1 MEng, Cambridge University l Founded and chaired the charity Engineers Without Borders l Happold Trust sponsorship award