What today’s engineers can learn from wartime innovators

Dr Hugh Hunt, Fellow of Trinity and Reader in the Department of Engineering, has brought large-scale engineering to life on screen through some of the most audacious feats of the Second World War.

Dr Hunt at Colditz for 'Escape from Colditz'
Dr Hunt at Colditz for ‘Escape from Colditz’

Sir Barnes Wallis’ bouncing bomb and the planned escape from Colditz in a home-made glider are famous. But the science behind them is complex and the calculations have often been lost.

For prime time television, Dr Hunt sought to solve such scientific puzzles by reconstructing the glider out of bed sheets and floorboards and trying to hit a dam with a bouncing bomb.

At the Royal Academy of Engineering’s lecture on 3 November, Dr Hunt will describe the challenges he, his students and TV producers faced in making these programmes.

... and in a Lancaster for 'Dambusters: Building the Bouncing Bomb'
… and in a Lancaster for ‘Dambusters: Building the Bouncing Bomb’

The event coincides with Tomorrow’s Engineers Week, which is designed to attract students into the profession and fill the 1.82 million engineering roles the UK will need before 2022.

Dr Hunt will discuss how today’s engineers grappling with urgent problems such as climate change can learn from the ‘extreme lateral thinking’ and ‘unrestrained imagination’ of wartime innovators like Sir Barnes Wallis.

In addition to research on vibration and dynamics, Dr Hunt is exploring methods to cool the planet in order to combat climate change.

Winner of the Academy’s 2015 Rooke Award for public engagement, Dr Hunt won the Royal Television Society’s Best History Documentary for Dambusters: Building the Bouncing Bombwhich has been seen by millions around the world. He has also made documentaries on the Great Escape, D-Day and zeppelins.

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