Designing the future – engineers reimagine the world at Oxford Science + Ideas Festival

Demonstrations and activities at Oxford IF showcase research from the world’s leading Engineering department

Professor Zhong You’s civil engineering research group use origami concepts to design structures and devices

Researchers from the Department of Engineering Science took part in the IF Oxford Science + Ideas Festival on Saturday at the Oxford Westgate Centre, demonstrating engineering innovations and ideas from robotics and wireless power toys to origami structures and algorithmically enhanced stylophones.

Visitors to the Westgate were invited to take part in hands-on activities showing how engineering designs play a part in many areas of our daily lives.

Researchers from Professor Zhong You’s civil engineering research group were demonstrating the origami structures they use to design structures and devices. Since most of the sheet materials used in engineering are relatively rigid, the researchers model origami structures as rigid facets connected by rotating hinges. This allows origami models to be manufactured from materials such as plastic, metal or carbon fibre, producing structures that are sufficiently strong and durable for large scale applications. Origami models are being used to design structures that absorb energy when crushed, for example during a vehicle collision.

We also asked budding future engineers visiting the stands to imagine what future technology they would like to design.

Suggestions included a time machine, a jet pack, something to go to Mars, a device to help you talk to your pets, a portable fold-up car, a house you could carry in a suitcase, a car that runs on water and a robot to help elderly people at home take out the rubbish. (Find out how The Oxford Robotics Institute are actually already working on this last idea).