Marine energy project scoops prize

Keith Alexander and Erik Bews, winners of the Institute of Physics award for the best physics project

A marine energy project by pupils at Kirkwall Grammar School in Orkney, supervised by Heriot-Watt University, has been awarded first prize in a National Science and Engineering competition.

The Kirkwall team of Keith Alexander and Erik Bews, having previously won Crest Gold awards, went on to scoop the Institute of Physics award for the best physics project in their age group at the Big Bang event. Their work was presented to over 13,000 scientists, engineers, teachers and celebrities as part of the competition.

As part of the Nuffield Scholarship Scheme, Heriot-Watt University and Scotrenewables jointly supervised Keith and Erik's project. For many years Heriot-Watt University has taken other Nuffield scholars from local schools in Orkney where they have undertaken a range of projects with the International Centre of Island Technology (ICIT). Two of these scholars have since graduated in engineering and are now back working with Scotrenewables in Stromness. It was one of them, William Annal, who co-supervised with this year's winners with Jon Side.

Another example of the success of this scheme is Barry Johnson who first came to ICIT on Heriot-Watt University's Orkney Campus when he was 14, on a placement from his school, Stromness Academy. He later went on to complete the Heriot-Watt University degree in Offshore Engineering, returning to Orkney to undertake PhD research at ICIT in marine renewables. During this time he developed a novel design for a tidal turbine and with the help of Heriot-Watt University and secured a Royal Society of Edinburgh / Scottish Enterprise Fellowship that enabled him to set up Scotrenewables. The company is now testing a 1/5 scale prototype of this device and has gone from strength to strength having secured major investments from Total and Fred Olsen Renewables, enabling the development of a specialist staff team.

Participation in the Nuffield scheme brings no financial benefits to Heriot-Watt University and staff at ICIT participate in this and other work with local schools simply because they believe it is important for them to do so. The benefits to the local community, however speaks for itself.