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Engineering innovation at HMS Collingwood

24 April 2018
Eighteen young Weapon Engineer Officers (WEO) from HMS Collingwood have just finished their 13 week Engineering Principles course, which culminated in presenting the projects they have been developing to VIPs from around the Royal Navy.

Engineering innovation at HMS CollingwoodThis was made possible by the newly set up DARE:Hub at HMS Collingwood which has received funding from the MoD for Raspberry Pis, Sensor suites, robot sets and a 3D printer.

Lieutenant Carl Marin-Ortega, the Course Leader, believes that “by supplying students with the tools and freedom to explore and experiment we empower our engineers to solve problems, come up with innovative solutions, and constructively challenge the system both now and later in their careers”.

The projects posed were based upon current issues or processes that technology could improve upon. One such issue was the amount of time it takes to check keys on board which was resolved by utilising RFID (Radio Frequency Identifier) technology with a raspberry Pi to control it. Within their group the students managed to write 2,600 lines of Python code, 3D design and print a casing, and demonstrate a working prototype.

Another team took on the challenge of the ShipHaz board; their prototype demonstrated a working system which enabled the user to immediately see if an area on board the ‘mock’ Type 45 ship was safe to go to by using RFID keys and an LED board with clear pictorial view of the Ship. 

Both the solutions offered ideas that could be easily and rapidly implemented and at minimal cost compared to existing 'Off The Shelf' solutions.

by supplying students with the tools and freedom to explore and experiment we empower our engineers to solve problems, come up with innovative solutions, and constructively challenge the system both now and later in their careers

Lieutenant Carl Marin-Ortega, the Course Leader

Lieutenant Commander Lee Packer from MarCap who was the sponsor of the projects and helped to fund the Dare:Hub via MoD said, “In my opinion this was an excellent example of innovation, learning whilst doing, and we should continue to mature its delivery. The initiative is timely given the year of engineering and it offers value to the individual.”

In a unique twist, the prototype projects had to pitch their idea to a mock 'Dragon’s Den', who scored the projects based on their feasibility and potential. One of the students, Sub-Lieutenant Knight, said, “it was fun, but challenging as there were a lot of tough questions!”

One VIP who acted as a 'Dragon' was Commander David Goldsmith, SWEO to FOST(S) who said, “These prototype projects have provided a tangible example of how cheap, capable and versatile modern microprocessors can provide potential technical solutions to many of the current challenges faced by the front line and which we regularly see at FOST.

"This project was really useful in that it opened our Junior Engineer Officers’ eyes to the importance of understanding of how these systems interface with each other and how they are programmed such that they will be better placed to exploit innovative technology to solve real world problems when they reach the front line.”

Midshipman Scott Bentley, the Systems Engineering Management Course (SEMC) class leader, said that, “the SEMC project was a unique experience, we were able to draw from the experiences of all team members with diverse backgrounds; from experienced Naval Engineers to graduates with unique degrees. It was good to feel like we were improving a part of the RN”.

Commander John Brennan, the Officer in Charge of all Weapon Engineer Training at HMS Collingwood said, “I think today was a huge success and is testament to the hard work the multinational teams have put in. Three groups consisting of New Zealand, Pakistani and Royal Navy Engineer Officers worked together to design, build and demonstrate their projects to great acclaim.”

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