The recently broadcast TV series, The Big Life Fix brings a refreshing and accurate view as to how engineering projects work. Presented by Simon Reeve, the programme pairs up some of the UKs leading engineers with people and communities dealing with everyday problems.
Set over 3 episodes, seven engineers are presented with problems facing individuals or communities and are tasked with finding a technological solution, which they build and present to those in desperate need. Presenter, Simon Reeve has no engineering background and was deliberately chosen to explain all of the processes in layman’s terms.
The series very effectively humanises the engineering process and gives a fascinating insight to the different aspects and phases of project development. The team of engineers visit the participants to receive a detailed briefing and ask questions. They then return to their creative space in Bethnal Green, London to come up with ideas and solutions.
The team of engineers includes an industrial designer and a design strategist, as well as an electronics specialist and a materials scientist. The project phases go from receiving the brief, to discussing the problems, coming up with an initial prototype through to presenting the final solution.
The programme shows how more often than not the initial prototype does not work, but then how a rethink and a rebuild overcomes problems. The failure of early prototypes is an essential aspect of the engineering design process. It’s insightful and inspiring stuff.
Seeing the results and how the devices and solutions bring so much to the individuals and communities involved is enough to inspire any budding engineer. A tear-jerking moment saw Emma, one of the participants, write her name and draw a straight line for the first time in 6 years. A custom-made wrist band with vibrating motors distracted Emma’s motor system from tremors, which had prevented her from using such fine motor skills.
Engineering in the UK has been predominantly perceived as a discipline which mends or fixes things, rather than it being about finding solutions to some of the major problems of our time. Programmes like The Big Life Fix give great exposure to the engineering industry and bring inspiration to young people who may not have thought about a career in engineering before. This programme is well worth the watch, and a there’s talk of a new series already.