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Blog - The STEM Awards 2018 Digital Challenge

Could augmented reality be used to highlight the important messages hidden in data? This is the challenge set by digital sponsor Rolls-Royce for the 2018 STEM Awards
The Digital Challenge

From design through to manufacture and into service, Rolls-Royce capture vast amounts of data. Data can teach us how to improve, but sometimes these lessons get lost in the complex data. How can we use augmented / virtual reality to better understand data?

For decades the success of Rolls-Royce has been powered by its ability to attract the brightest graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Little wonder that the engineering giant has committed, once more, to sponsoring the Telegraph’s STEM Awards for the 2018 competition.

This time Rolls-Royce has set the challenge for the digital category, and Andy Appleyard, the company’s global resource and capability manager, digital, says his organisation are delighted to be involved again. “Rolls-Royce will always support initiatives that encourage more talented people to consider a STEM career, particularly with us,” he says.

“Historically, there have not been enough students choosing to study STEM subjects, and that pool of students hasn’t been representative of society as a whole. Furthermore, because of their in-demand transferable skills, a large proportion of graduates were being poached to pursue careers outside of science, technology, engineering or mathematics.
“This is changing. Through programmes like our own outreach initiative, which aims to reach six million people by 2020, more young people than ever before are being encouraged to consider a career in engineering, whatever their background. At the same time, there’s a growing awareness that STEM careers offer a uniquely attractive balance of exciting and fulfilling work with good pay and benefits.

“Put simply, we need to ensure we inspire the next generation of STEM talent, to ensure we have the next generation of Rolls-Royce employees to continue developing our world-leading technologies and data services.”

Rolls-Royce boasts a strong STEM Awards pedigree. The first year in which it was a sponsor, for the 2016 competition, category victor Warren Frost, a first-year aerospace engineering student at Sheffield Hallam University, went all the way to claim the overall award. He enjoyed a 10-week summer placement with Rolls-Royce at its Derby headquarters, and admits he has still not spent his £25,000 cash prize because he has earmarked it for his winning innovation, which aims to reduce the impact of volcanic ash on air travel.

“Since the competition, I have been working on the theoretical validation of my concept and I plan to invest the winnings on it,” he says. He also has some advice for this year’s entrants. “The STEM Awards is an excellent opportunity to introduce yourself to large businesses and provides a huge boost to your career,” he adds.

“The Telegraph provided an expert in intellectual property to guide and counsel me with the development of not only my idea but also my early career.”

For the 2018 competition, Rolls-Royce’s STEM Awards challenge boils down to this question: how can augmented reality (AR) and/or virtual reality (VR) be used to better understand the important messages hidden in data?

Mr Appleyard, a key member of the team that devised this puzzler, says: “We were a pure engineering company when we first began working with data 30 years ago. Today, we are as much a data-driven technology company as we are an engineering one. We want to do more to show programmers, designers and data experts that Rolls-Royce is a place where they can do truly innovative work with data. That shaped the challenge we set.

“AR and VR have been successfully applied in the medical and military industries, as well as in film and gaming sectors. More recently, they have been used for data visualisation, where they show promising results by integrating the world of data with the real world and allowing the viewer to interact with the data.

“At Rolls-Royce, we capture data in everything we do, whether it is engineering components or systems, manufacturing parts, assembling equipment, testing, or monitoring health of equipment in service. We value data because it shows us how to improve what we do, but when dealing with complex data, one can get lost in detail or miss the big picture.

“Changing technology and big data present enormous opportunities for humanity. Tomorrow’s STEM talent will be the key to realising this potential, so we want to inspire this next generation of problem solvers to get in the game now.”
Compete against the best and win £25,000

Take a look at the challenges from our six industry sponsors and submit an idea to solve one of them. If your idea is chosen as the winner, you could win a career-defining work experience programme and £25,000.