Paul Harrington, trainee healthcare scientist (rehabilitation engineering) at Oxford University Hospitals, attended Parliament to present his engineering research to a range of politicians and a panel of expert judges, as part of Science Engineering Technology (SET) for Britain. Paul’s poster on research about increasing the safety of wheelchair users when in vehicles was judged against dozens of other engineers’ research in the only national competition of its kind held on Monday 17th March 2014. He was shortlisted from hundreds of applicants to appear in Parliament. On presenting his research in Parliament, Paul said: “This is a great opportunity to present some of the really important and beneficial work that is being done here at the Oxford Centre for Enablement in collaboration with rehabilitation engineering centres throughout the country to reduce the risks for a vulnerable group of patients.”
Speaking at the event, Andrew Miller MP, Chairman of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, said: “This annual competition is an important date in the parliamentary calendar because it gives MPs an opportunity to speak to a wide range of the country’s best young researchers. These early career engineers, mathematicians and scientists are the architects of our future and SET for Britain is politicians’ best opportunity to meet them and understand their work.”
Paul’s research was entered into the engineering session of the competition, which ended in a gold, silver and bronze prize-giving ceremony. Although Paul did not pick up a prize for his poster, reflecting on his day at the House of Commons he said: “It was great to get some feedback from some experts including professors and an engineer from Boeing. I also encouraged my local MP to attend the event beforehand and was able to talk the problem through with him on the day. He responded very positively and offered his help at government level. This will likely be useful as the Department for Transport (DFT) is a government body and stronger links between rehabilitation engineers and the DFT is a bonus for passenger safety. I also took the opportunity to chat with a number of other early career researchers on the veranda at the back of the House of Commons, which is not something I do every day. Visiting the public gallery of the debating chambers was also very interesting, but the debating was something I’m happy to leave to the career politicians.”
The Parliamentary and Scientific Committee run the event in collaboration with the Council for Mathematical Sciences, the Institute of Physics, The Physiological Society, the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Society of Biology and the Society of Chemical Industry, with financial support from BP, the Clay Mathematics Institute, Essar, INEOS, Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG), Germains Seed Technology, Boeing, the Bank of England and the Institute of Biomedical Science.