Teachers and engineers recognised at ERA Foundation dinner

Published:  20 June, 2024

Four teachers and three engineers were recognised for their significant contributions to bridging education and careers in industry, as well as their advancements in core research at the recent the ERA Foundation (ERAF) held its annual dinner at The Royal Society.

The event brought together over 100 guests, including engineers, scientists, industrialists, and supporters of manufacturing and engineering. Distinguished attendees included Lord David Willetts, Chair of the UK Space Agency, Sir Jim McDonald, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, and ERA Foundation Chairman Professor Sir Christopher Snowden.

Each year, the ERA Foundation acknowledges secondary and primary school teachers who go beyond the standard curriculum to inspire students and integrate real-world engineering into the classroom. This recognition is embodied in the David Clark Prize, named in honour of the former ERA Foundation secretary, Dr. David Clark, who presented the awards this year.

Paul Tyler, the winner of the primary school category, is the STEM and Innovation Lead at Kirkhill Primary School near Inverness. Tyler has reimagined the school’s curriculum to place a stronger emphasis on engineering, STEM, and sustainability. He has also established and funded a new STEM Innovation hub, transforming the way STEM education is delivered at his school.

In the secondary school category, Anthony Vaughan-Evans, a maths teacher and Director of STEM at East Point Academy, was honoured for his commitment to delivering STEM education to the youth in Lowestoft and Waveney, two areas facing economic challenges. Vaughan-Evans has been instrumental in securing external support to provide students with engaging and contextually relevant STEM experiences. He is also in the process of creating a “Centre of Excellence for STEM” to further enhance STEM education in the region.

Another notable awardee was Kate Finlay, the Director of Design and Technology at Inspiration Trust in Suffolk. Finlay’s efforts have significantly advanced the Design & Technology department at Hethersett Academy, providing students with industry-relevant experiences. Jane Diver, executive principal of Hethersett Academy, praised Finlay’s dedication, stating: “Kate has transformed the technology department at Hethersett Academy beyond all recognition.” Finlay has also organised a major conference for D&T teachers and employers in Lowestoft, scheduled for July 12th, which is expected to draw significant participation.

Becki Davies, the Science Subject Leader at The Willows Primary School in Manchester, was highly commended for her dedication to building positive perceptions of STEM careers for all students, regardless of gender, socio-economic background, or geographical location. Davies has implemented new enrichment programs and extended her influence beyond her school, impacting children and families across Stoke-on-Trent.

In addition to recognising educators, the ERA Foundation awards annual fellowships to promising engineering companies and individuals. The 2024 fellowship recipients included Sanzhar Taizhan of Taisan Energy, who is developing sustainable sodium battery technology. Taisan Energy’s new Hexagonal battery boasts several advantages over existing battery technologies, including faster charging and better volume availability. The company was also named “Best Growth Potential” firm in 2023 by the Department for Transport.

Another fellowship recipient was Alex Shakeshaft of Enturi Solutions Ltd., recognised for developing off-grid wind-powered distributed energy systems that contribute to net-zero goals. Enturi recently secured Innovate UK funding to further develop its small wind system innovations. Paul McHard, a senior software engineer at HAL Robotics, was also honoured for his work on autonomous robotic detection and correction of surface defects in manufacturing.

The event featured speeches from Lord David Willetts and Sir Jim McDonald, both of whom underscored the critical role of engineering in the UK economy and the importance of ongoing support for technological advancement. Lord Willetts, Chair of the UK Space Agency emphasised the need for closer collaboration between the UK and Europe in defence and security, suggesting that a portion of the UK defence budget could be allocated to research in civil aviation. He also reflected on the historical significance of research associations like ERA, likening their mission to the modern Catapult centres created since 2010 to foster public and private investment in key technologies.

Sir Jim McDonald, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, highlighted the need for more engineers in policymaking roles, noting that while there are some notable engineering figures in the House of Commons, the number remains insufficient. He cited the example of Claudia Sheinbaum, Mexico’s first female president with a PhD in energy engineering, as an illustration of the potential impact engineers can have in leadership positions.

ERA Foundation Chairman Sir Christopher Snowden concluded the event by expressing gratitude for the participation of Lord Willetts and Sir Jim McDonald. He remarked on the significance of the Clarke Prizes and the opportunity the dinner provided for guests from diverse backgrounds to share experiences and ideas. The event celebrated exceptional contributions to STEM education and underscored the importance of engineering to the UK’s future.

Winning teachers receive £3000 in cash and £12,000 goes to their school over three years to promote engineering within the school.



Pictured: Becki Price, Kate Finlay, Paul Tyler and Andrew Vaughan-Evans receive the David Clark Prize from Dr David Clark, at the 2024 ERA Foundation annual dinner.

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