Engineering needs to be front and centre says RAEng Rooke Award winner, Dr Hugh Hunt

The 2015 Royal Academy of Engineering Rooke Award has been awarded to Cambridge University's Dr Hugh Hunt for his outstanding contribution to the public promotion of engineering. The inspirational academic has galvanised thousands of budding engineers through his engaging lectures and swashbuckling TV and radio broadcasts.

RAEng Rooke Award winner

Described as “one of the most energetic, inspirational, and committed engineers in public engagement”, Reader in Mechanical Engineering, Dr Hugh Hunt, scooped the Academy’s award in recognition of his commitment to promote engineering over the last quarter of a century.

Dr Hunt’s activities are as wide as they are varied. He has long been a stalwart of the Cambridge undergraduate engineering teaching programme, as well as a regular contributor to the university’s popular science lectures. Through these activities, Dr Hunt has inspired many thousands of people on topics as diverse as the science of music to the mechanics of gyroscopes and boomerangs.

For many years he hosted the Institute of Physics School Teachers' Update Courses in Cambridge and he appeared at the Cheltenham Science Festival. He also makes regular appearances on the BBC’s popular Naked Scientists radio show.

Dr Hunt also created and presented television documentaries with a strong engineering component. He was the lead presenter and principal technical expert for Attack of the Zeppelins (2013), Escape from Colditz (2012) and Digging the Great Escape (2011).

Alongside Windfall Films, he collected the 2011 Royal Television Society award for the best history programme for their two-hour long production Dambusters: Building the Bouncing Bomb. Watched by an estimated five million viewers in the UK, it was also screened in Canada, the USA and in Hugh’s native Australia.

Previous winners of the Rooke Award include broadcaster and engineer Professor Mark Miodownik FREng, computer science champion Professor Chris Bishop FREng FRSE, and Dr Diane Crann for her pivotal role in setting up Engineering Master Classes at the Royal Institution (Ri).

On winning the award, Dr Hunt said: “To have won this year’s Rooke Award for doing something that I enjoy so much is incredibly rewarding. Very often, engineers are in the background, just getting on with things, but to inspire the next generation we need to be front-and-centre.

As well as being vital to our future, science, technology, engineering and maths are incredibly good fun, and I love showing people that. Universities and funding bodies have a role to play too – they must recognise the importance of outreach activities and continue to support them

Nigel Perry FREng, Chairman of the Royal Academy of Engineering's Awards committee, said: "Hugh Hunt's fascinating work has helped to reawaken the British people's latent passion for engineering. He has invoked the spirit and derring-do of our wartime engineers, who triumphed against adversity, making some incredible advances - and escapes!"

Read more about Dr Hunt's views about how he thinks we can inspire the next generation of engineers in this brilliant column he wrote for the Guardian.

What is the Rooke Award?

The Rooke Award for the public promotion of engineering is awarded to an individual, small team or organisation who has contributed to the Academy's aims and work through their initiative in promoting engineering to the public. The award is named in honour of the late Sir Denis Rooke OM CBE FRS FREng, a former President of the Royal Academy of Engineering and one of the UK's most distinguished engineers.

As Chairman of British Gas, his legacy was to build the UK's gas distribution network and unite the gas industry, making domestic gas a cheap and convenient fuel source for millions of people. He later became Chancellor of Loughborough University and served on many national advisory committees on both energy policy and education.

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