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Engineering celebrated in thanksgiving service at Westminster Abbey

Representatives from across the engineering community, Government and schoolchildren have come together to celebrate and give thanks for the vast contribution engineers make to society.

The national event in London’s Westminster Abbey on was the first of its kind. It was held to mark both the Government’s Year of Engineering and the bicentenary of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), and was jointly organised by the Government, ICE and the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng).

The service was led by the Very Reverend Dr John Hall, Dean of Westminster.

It was a great honour for IAgrE to be represented at the event by past President Dr Geoffrey Freedman, who said a prayer.

There were personal testimonies from engineering ambassador Roma Agrawal MBE, associate director at Aecom and famed for her work on The Shard, and Colonel Deborah Porter, deputy commander of the Defence Medical Group.

Agrawal spoke of her own path into engineering through a desire “to make things” and her work speaking about engineering to young people, especially girls. She concluded with what she described as her “Michelle Obama moment” and her personal need for IVF in order to have children and her thankfulness for the medical and engineering developments “that allow us to, literally, create life”.

Porter focused more on the invaluable contribution engineering makes in the rehabilitation of service personnel who have suffered complex traumatic injuries, such as single or multiple amputations and brain damage.

The main address at the service was given by Professor Dame Ann Dowling, president of the Royal Academy of Engineering, who began by quoting a comment from HRH The Duke of Edinburgh: “Everything not invented by God was invented by an engineer”. Drawing attention to the eminent engineers buried in the Abbey, including Robert Stephenson and Thomas Telford, Dowling paid tribute to the achievements of the past and also those of the present and future.

“Engineering expertise will be critical to tackling the global challenges we face in the years to come,” she said. “Engineers will play a central role in addressing the effects of climate change and rising sea levels and in ensuring that our growing population will have access to food, water, clean energy and affordable healthcare.

“We hope future generations will be inspired by the opportunities engineering offers to shape their world, to discover new ways to improve lives in the future and to help meet the needs of the 21st century and beyond.”

One of the readings was given by the Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling. Speaking beforehand about the significance of the event, he said: “In a year which has seen Government and industry join forces to raise the bar for inspiring the next generation of engineers, what could be more fitting than to come together to celebrate the contribution that engineers have made and will continue to make to all of our lives?

Yewande Akinola, of Laing O’Rourke, read the poem What is an Engineer? by Varun Narayanan:

What is an engineer? Well, look around:

Our monuments are everywhere – we make

and speculate, design, create, and build,

then bridge the continents or search the stars,

bring information into every hand,

shape air and fire, sea and land – each one

an element with which we innovate,

imagining how lives might be improved.

To generate the new, the future now,

ingenious, from backgrounds of all kinds,

inventing at all ages, for all time,

with individual spirit and joined minds,

to tackle any challenge, far or near-

is what it means to be an engineer.

“The Year of Engineering has been a chance to show young people across the UK all that this profession has to offer them and to spread the message that engineering needs talented young people from all walks of life to tackle some of the biggest challenges we face.”


(Take from the IET web site)