How does the engineering brain work? Science Museum helps to inspire the next generation of engineers

Preview the new “Engineer your future” exhibition with co-funder Mott MacDonald

Engineer Your Future

Discover your potential to shape the world we live in. Put your problem solving skills to the test.

Get inspired by engineering with fun, interactive gaming and digital experiences that bring to life the skills engineers use every day.

On 17 December a new exhibition opens at the Science Museum, London, designed to persuade 11-15 year olds to become the engineers of tomorrow. 

“Mott MacDonald is one of nine organisations supporting the exhibition. Keep an eye on Infrastructure Intelligence over the next four weeks from Monday to find out more about the exhibition and the workings of the engineering mind.”

The new ‘Engineer your future’ exhibition aims to demonstrate to school children that they already possess key skills and thought patterns that will enable them to develop outstanding and influential careers as engineers capable of transforming lives across the world.

As such the exhibition is being curated around these six key skills or ‘engineering habits of mind’, which were identified in a May 2014 Royal Academy of Engineering report, ‘Thinking like an engineer – implications for the education system’ as critical to developing the next generation of engineers. 

The exhibition will explain and bring to life the six habits - systems thinking, adaptation, problem-finding, creative problem solving, visualising and improving – and show how these are applied to deliver engineering marvels as diverse as baggage handling systems, the Mars Rover, power supply networks and bionic hands. 

The exhibition will also tell the stories of women and men working in engineering today, showing that fascinating careers can be built ‘making things that work, and making things work better’. 

The aim is to demonstrate to secondary school pupils that engineering isn’t a remote and inaccessible discipline that only a select few with the right academic training can do. It’s about showing that ordinary people, including school kids, have engineering skills and interests.

Games designed for the museum - accessible online as well as in the exhibition itself - will give children the chance to put some of those skill to the test.

As the Science Museum puts it: “Design a vehicle that will travel the furthest across a challenging alien landscape. Use team work to navigate complex systems like managing electrical flow through a power grid, a train through a railway network, or luggage through an airport baggage handling system.”

Alongside Mott MacDonald, the Engineer Your Future exhibition has been supported by ABB, BT, EDF Energy, IBM, National Grid, Network Rail and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, with additional support from the Royal Academy of Engineering and Tomorrow’s Engineers.

It adds: “Or travel through a futuristic cityscape and discover real people working across engineering, from energy generation, transport and health to creating visual effects for film.”

Ideas that will also be explored include:

  • faster, smarter, safer, including the human benefits delivered by engineering – exhibits: robotic hand, Americas Cup yacht, Tsunami simulation
  • communication of ideas, design iteration and evolution – exhibits: Mars Rover, including a game enabling visitors to design and test and refine their own explorer vehicles
  • system design, getting things from A-B, balance of speed, cost and resilience – exhibits: transport, power and baggage handling systems, including ‘design your own’ systems with lots of variables
  • people and places – 3D virtual city and ‘Top Trumps’ engineers: select the urban location/challenge best suited to the engineer and see how they get on. Find out about individual engineers, their qualifications and histories (Mott MacDonald’s Emily Bonner, James Straw, Divindy Grant feature in this section)

The six engineering habits of mind

  • Systems thinking - Seeing whole systems and parts and how they connect, pattern-sniffing, recognising interdependencies, synthesising
  • Problem-finding - Clarifying needs, checking existing solutions, investigating contexts, verifying
  • Creative problem-solving - Applying techniques from different traditions, generating ideas and solutions with others, generous but rigorous critiquing, seeing engineering as a ‘team sport’
  • Visualising - Being able to move from abstract to concrete, manipulating materials, mental rehearsal of physical space and of practical design solutions
  • Adapting - Testing, analysing, reflecting, rethinking, changing both in a physical sense and mentally
  • Improving - Restlessly trying to make things better by experimenting, designing, sketching, guessing, conjecturing, thought-experimenting, prototyping

Visit Engineer Your Future to discover the engineers who are developing, changing and shaping our futures and try your hand at the skills engineers use in extraordinary situations.

Open from 17 December 2014 – December 2017, Floor 3, Wellcome Wing, Science Museum

If you would like to contact Antony Oliver about this, or any other story, please email